One of the joys of reading old works of fiction, or historical fiction that mimics older styles, is being forced to find a dictionary and look up archaic words. Of course, it’s always a fine line between learning delightful new/old words and excessively flipping back and forth trying to understand what the hell you’re reading. One of the reasons I like the Mary Quinn stories so much is that they navigate that line so well.
And then there’s H.P. Lovecraft.
Surprise— the guy who tried to torture tongues into finding the correct pronunciation of Cthulhu loved obscure, strange sounding words. Even in his time, his choice of words was considered excessively florid and antiquated. It’s become a comedic meme of sorts, subject to much intense analysis.
I think that assessment of Lovecraft’s writing is unfair. His words only sound weird because they’re used in the context of horror. I used them all the time in high school and I was able to work them seamlessly into conversation, as I was promptly stuffed into a locker.
Here are my 5 favourite Lovecraft words, along with examples of usage. Thanks to that most hipster of dictionaries, Merriam-Webster, for the definitions.
chthonic – (relating to the underworld):
I have a feeling there’ll be many more upcoming movies thrown into the chthonic dustbin as a result of their filmmakers being revealed as sexual predators.
cyclopean – (huge, massive):
Migrating this database is a cyclopean task that hasn’t been budgeted out properly.
eldritch – (weird, eerie) some guy being eldritch:
I totally tuned out during Bran’s storyline on Game of Thrones because I just cannot stay awake through that eldritch greenseer stuff. Also, he was a real dick to Meera.
inchoate – (imperfectly formed):
I’m surprised that even with the addition of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Thibs’s defensive schemes seem inchoate at best.
squamous – (scaly):
Except for a squamous patch on the back of my knee, this eczema’s really nothing to worry about.