Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Word Journal: Rhodomontade

Loneliness was the famine which had tamed him; and in the release of having some one to talk to he forgot the where and the when, forgot the unintimacy between them, forgot even the lack of credence which she could not conceal as she listened to his rhodomontades.
—Sylvia Townsend Warner, Summer Will Show (1936)
Sylvia Townsend Warner is a careful stylist, with an ear for the shape and the rhythm of her sentences. Here is an elegant tricolon, built upon the triple repetition of the word forgot. At the same time, excessive repetition is avoided. Townsend Warner might easily have written "forgot the lack of intimacy between them, forgot even the lack of credence...," but she creates variety by coining "unintimacy," a word that even the Oxford English Dictionary fails to recognize. The combination of repetition and variation in the sentence, the juxtaposition of the familiar and strange, is, like the rest of Sylvia Townsend Warner's writing, particularly artful and elegant.

The sentence ends with a word that sent me scurrying to the OED. Rhodomontade (or, rodomontade) means "a vainglorious brag or boast," and is first attested in English in 1612. It is ultimately derived from Rodomonte, the name of a boastful Saracen leader in the sixteenth- century Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto's epic Orlando furioso (1532).

1 comment:

Jim H. said...

Famous rodmontades:

"We're bigger than Jesus." Paul McCartney on the Beatles' popularity

"I am the decider." George W. Bush

"I am the greatest." Muhammad Ali (when it came to boxing, this was no brag, but he may have meant it in a much broader sense)

"You won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore." If only he'd meant it.

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