Fans of obscure words might be interested in this.

In my review of F Rolfe’s Hadrian 7th (1904) I mentioned Rolfe’s predilection for using arcane language. I made a note of just a small selection as examples – see if you recognise any:

  • koprolalian
  • cardinalitial
  • matutinal
  • acolyth
  • prooimion
  • Sbdiaconate
  • yearnest
  • exoletes
  • dicaculous
  • dilacerated
  • pachydermatosity
  • juvence
  • exsequies
  • intagliate
  • curule
  • rascalt
  • fulguration

How did you do? Obviously this exercise is made more difficult by the absence of context, and in any novel about the papacy you would expect a few obscure terms about the Roman Catholic liturgy and rituals. But Rolfe goes completely overboard, rooting out obscure 16th century terms, often adapting them into a form not normally found (so koprolalian would normally be rendered with a c not a k, meaning the obsessive use of scatological language). Others he more simply invents from their Latin and Greek roots – prooimion for example, with which he opens his novel.

The message is clear – Rolfe is more intelligent than the reader, whom he holds in contempt. If my earlier review hadn’t made the point clearly enough, unless you love weird obscure words – DON’T READ IT!! I do so you don’t have to.