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Just a Few Words--from "Death's Jest Book"

Updated on August 15, 2010

One of my favorite fun authors is Reginald Hill. He's English, and writes crime fiction, so his work is a part of one of the most popular contemporary fiction genres.

You can tell, though, that Mr. Hill is a very erudite author. He could have written much more serious works--he certainly has the vocabulary for it.

I'm recently re-reading one of my old favorites of his, called "Death's Jest Book", apparently after an unfinished play by Thomas Beddoes.

I was intrigued to find out how many words I didn't know when I encountered this story once again. The first time I read it, I breezed through it for the story, wanting to know how it all came out, and didn't notice the unfamiliar vocabulary. This time, I paid more attention to the words, and here's a few nuggets for you, that I had to look up, because I didn't know what they meant. (Quite a few nuggets, and I'm only on page 195, about half way though the book!)

Adytum of Esfahan Jame

The word is "adytum" and means the most sacred place of worship in an ancient temple from which all lay people were excluded.


The word is "burin" and means a steel cutting tool with a sharp, beveled edge used in engraving stone.

a Cenotaph in London

 A few more words for you:

Cenotaph:  a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains are interred elsewhere

Episematic:  aiding recognition between animals of the same species

Autotelic:  a non-utilitarian theory of art stating that a work of art is an end of itself and needs no other justification


 And just a few more:

Poppadoms : Thin, round crisp Indian bread, often served with curry

Louche :  Decadent; of questionable taste or morality

Eleemosynary :  relating to an act of charity

Quaestor :  Public officials in ancient Rome responsible for administering finance.  (Reggie Hill has Cambridge using this term in lieu of "Bursar" in the book.)

Death's Jest Book, by Reginald Hill

I really like Mr. Hill's writing so very much. I don't mean to make him sound like a stuffy writer that uses unecessarily big words. He isn't. One of his main characters, Dalziel, says the funniest and crudest things (he's a Yorkshire man, no mistake!). His stories read like the wind; they are real potboilers, real pageturners. It makes it fun to learn new words, in this context!


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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Cosette!

    • profile image

      cosette 7 years ago

      i just HAD to read this by looking at the title alone. what a great hub! i didn't know any of those words...very cool. totally enjoyed it :)

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, and you will enjoy that book. I love authors that make me think, too!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      I love authors who make me think. This is a great hub. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely read Deaths Jest.


    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good! You'll enjoy him, Duchess.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

      Interesting hub Paradise7, certainly has me thinking I need to read this Reginald Hill.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Rochelle. Yes, I know--I usually just zoom along, getting the story, sort of guessing at the meaning of the words I don't know from the context, filtering them out, at least the FIRST time I read a book. One of my friends asked me, "Why do you re-read the same book? You already know how it comes out?"

      Well, new words are one concrete reason I could give.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Only a couple of them seemed slightly familiar-- isn't it interesting how we can read something and auto-eject some of the unfamiliar words from the narrative, and still get the meaning?

      Interesting list.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Faybe!!! Use "autoelic" DOES justify itself and is sufficient unto the day...

      Love from Paradise.

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      This is so cool! I am going to use Autotelic! I mean my hubs are a work of art as far as I am concerned. I painstakingly pull all of my pieces together and then stamp it with my own words, which is an art form. Now I don't have to make any excuses or explain it... It's Autotelic! I love learning new words, but some of these have a lovely ring to them. I like Poppadoms, and of course they are food, but I love the sound of the word, and they do look good! Now I have a writer I have to check out!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comments, saddlerider1 and carolina muscle! I think we're all word fans, here on HubPages!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I love me some arcane verbology .. LOL !! great post!!

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 7 years ago

      Yup I agree with Mike Lickteigh..words flew over my noggin to. There are so many words that rarely come up in conversations. I remember always reading the Reader's Digest magazines when I was a young boy, studying the interpretations of new words. Many I have forgotten now:0))

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Yeah, Mike, I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, too. Reggie Hill's is BETTER! No, it doesn't bother me to encounter quite a few new words, I tend to get the gist from the context, anyway, and it's usually a second reading that will take me to the dictionary.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      I think I have a pretty good vocabulary, but the words on your list went way over my head! If there were too many words I didn't know the meaning of, it could be distracting and I think I would get frustrated, but it sounds as if a new word or two didn't bother you at all. Sounds like Hill is an interesting writer.


    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, Enlydia and akirchner, for your comments. It's reassuring to me to find out other people didn't know what those words meant, either--it wasn't a poorer than average vocabulary on my part that prompted me to write this hub!!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Now there are some words I don't run across every day! Unique hub!

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 7 years ago from trailer in the country

      I am attracted to unusual one point in my life, I thought it would be a humorous thing to make up a new word every reminded me of Lewis Carroll, saying "I try to think of at least one impossible thing before breakfast"....(or something like that)...I know that was a bit off topic, but like I said, words thrill me.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, billyaustindillon, scarytaff, and cheaptrick for your lovely comments. (PS, cheaptrick, the Brits use the word "lovely" to describe just about EVERYTHING!)

      And scarytaff, with Dalziel and Pascoe on the TV in the UK, it makes me want to move there, now! American television is (generally speaking) too dumb for words and loaded with commercials.

    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 7 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      To be honest,I'm already having a hard time understanding what you Brit's say as is P!:)

      I'm gonna try to stuff some of Mr Hill's work into this Yankee head of mine though!

      Words are the brush...the mind is the canvas...



    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 7 years ago from South Wales

      Dalziel and Pascoe are a TV crime series here in UK. Good hub No.7

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      Lots of new words here - interesting I will check out Hill's work. When I saw Death's Jest book I was thinking along the lines of Monty Python's "bring out the dead " :)