The Dauntless Rook (§.12)

Continued from §.11.

Serlo poured himself a tumbler of scotch as his father ambled into the drawing room of Wealdmar Estate, mahogany cane clacking violently off the decorative and newly-swept marble floor.

“How is our dear Cerelia?” Grædig Wealdmaer inquired with scant concealed venom, taking a seat upon the leather armchair opposite his son, who slouched dejectedly over the worn coffee table, eyes to the grain. Serlo could not be certain, but was confident his father’s severe gray eyes were upon him, and did not wish to meet the old man’s gaze.

“She’s fine father.”

“Fine? How could she be fine when she’s still set to be wedded to an Adair?”

Serlo sighed.

“She loves him, father.”

“Love? How swiftly that word is deployed as universal justification.”

“I tried to talk her out of it. Thou knowth the affair sits ill with me, yet, on the matter, her mind is as flint.”

“Thou should more forcefully ply thyself.”

“Have I not done all that may become my name? What else could I have done? Already she has eschewed her inheritance.”

“Thou could, if more rightly blooded, act the man thou pretends, rebuke her ill-fitting suitor, with tongue and arm alike.”

“This avys, father? Again? I can not.”

Serlo rose swiftly, vexed and shaking his head.

“I can not.” He repeated more emphatically, pacing back and forth with nervous excitation.

“Sit thee down, boy. Warm blooded and womanly, thou art.”

“He has not grieved me.”

“That he is Adair is grievance enough.”

“For thee!”

“And so, for thee.”

“Nay. Nay! What hath I not given thee but blood? Still, thou hath the temerity to chastise me?”

“Temerity thou couldst use. Curse thy pacing. Sit, damn ye!”

Yetta Wealdmear frowned as she moved into the drawing room, elegantly gowned, pausing in the entrance to better observe the debacle.

“Whatever is the matter?”

“Hear thy mother not? Go on, boy. Flap thy gums since thine bawdryk evades thy callow exercise.”

Serlo opened his mouth to rebuke the old man, thought better of it and spoke to his mother instead without meeting her gaze. He did not wish to see her disapproval anymore than his father’s.

“Father wants me to present a writ of grievance to Adair.”

“He’s still on about it? Why so excited my dear boy? Surely thou art not afraid?”

“Have ye not see the papers?”

“No, I eschew those wretched things.”

“He was attacked.”

“Oeric?”

“Aye.”

“Who by?”

“No one knows. Whoever it was, they wanted him dead.”

“Thou should be thanking them, not mincing thy words and wringing thy limp and lotioned hands.”

“Father!”

Grædig Wealdmaer slammed his ciser upon the table and rose, ambling stiffly towards his son, cane at his side, face twisting with disdain.

“Had I the alauntz of my youth, I should have long-since thrashed the welp across the grand thoroughfare, were he man enough to face me. But thee, nobly born, who are so able in thy faculties, shake as a gale-blown leaf. Thou art a coward.”

“Grædig!” Yetta cried in dismay.

“Why must thee treat me so wretchedly?”

The old man looked his son up and down and once more rapt his cane.

“Allye thou art, that worsens the humiliation of this betrayal of bachilrie.”

He sighed and turned away.

“Perhaps, for this, I bear some blame.”

“By noon assent, Father. I am sorry to dissapoint thee so. I shall not do so again; this, I promise thee.”

Thereafter, Serlo, red-faced and despondent, spun on his heel and left the room.

 

*

 

Continued in §. 13 (forthcoming)

Cajeta (Gimme Some Sweet!)

“Gimme some sweet!”

we scream

blessed by your MAD words

BAD words

GLAD words

SAD

letting them scorch palates

y quemar nuestros labios

like Holy Wafers

in the Devil’s mouth.

Give us a taste

of life

your loco—

salty and caramel-kissed—

with every candy-flip of the page

forming crystalizations

of lithium-pink

opiate rock (candy)

on dripping tips of lenguas

(so ready)

that hunger for the taste

of sweet poets’ milk

melting rains of cajeta

upon wanting chins and souls

under hot breaths of your WICKED verse.

“Gimme some sweet!”

gritamos

longing for a fix—

ecstatic

spasmatic

orgasms—

of your word-sugar

(tus palabras dulces)

their velvet, fatal stabs

to the heart

(mi corazón)

and the backs of throats

(releasing bad blood and MAD words)

like glistening Astro Pops

sharpened and honed

by the spit and rolling tongues

of PrOphETS—

their anointing mouths

and bleeding pens

working their brujería—

confectionate necromancies—

upon lifeless eardrums

y animas

that languished bitterly

in reductive states

of silent subtraction.

C’mon…Gimme some sweet!

(Some candied teats to suckle)

Gimme some sweet!

(Sticky trickles of sanctified honey-nectar)

Gimme some sweet!

(El fuego…la alma en mi sangre)

Gimme some sweet!

(Good, proper skull-fucks that inject your Truths)

Gimme some sweet!

(A case of “the sugars” that never felt so good)

Ándale! Dame tu dulce

y no me dejaís aquí estropeado!

(Don’t leave me here CRASHING)

Ochre Sepulchre

Hraban Amsler came to the end of the forest path and continued apace. The sparse, charming wood thickening swiftly before him. Ochre and gold. Colors the harbingers of Fall.

He knew the route well and yet felt as if he’d taken a wrong turning. The feeling came unbidden into his mind, though the man knew he had taken the correct path, as he had countless times before.

After several minutes spent vainly attempting to recall his surroundings, he paused in a clearing and looked about, puzzled by the alien peculiarity of the place.

Skeletal branches scrapped the barren welkin as if in the throes of anguished fury and where once there had been stars there was now only ruts of deeper blackness, like scars upon shadow.

There was no wind; nor bird-song; nor cricket cry; nor the croaking of frogs; nor the gallop of deer; nor the skittering of skinks; nor the grunting of boar.

All about were bones and silence and nowhere was the path to Harrohane.

I swore I took the right path. And yet…

Amsler looked down at the watch strapped to his left wrist and muttered a curse. It was later than he expected, though the sun seemed not to have moved at all from when he left the well-worn path. If he didn’t arrive on time he was sure he’d be fired.

Amsler paused and rescanned the forest which seemed to be closing in about him. All about the trunks of the mangled wood were marks of wear, the bark torn and smoothed like deer-sign. He moved closer to the nearest tree, which bore no similarity to any species the man could recall, and bent to the smoothed area about its radius.

They were the marks of hands.

Human hands.

Hands moved by desperate, reptilian fear.

“What place is this?” Amsler wondered aloud, his breath coming cold before him, despite the oppressive heat of the vegetal enclosure. Again when he looked the trees had closed about him, the ground becoming thicker with snaking vines and grasping roots.

“Perhaps I’m dreaming.”

He felt his head as the sky became dark with the leafy canopy, the malevolent foliage drawing shadows upon the ground which danced as if in mockery and obscured the skittering insects which poured forth from flesh-sated soil and spilled like ocean waves against Amsler’s boots.

“Or hallucinating.”

The stalks of the ferns and trunks of the trees were now so thick about the man that the forty-by-forty clearing into which he had stumbled, had nearly disappeared, having now shrunk to the size of a living room.

“What I see, what I hear—this cannot be real, but rather some trickery—of my mind’s construction, or another’s. The marks upon the trees and the bones beneath them attests to the utility of panic. Even if this is some strange, new reality—which I do not believe—to react as my predecessors would prove fruitless. No, this is nothing more than a momentary fit of some kind. I know not its origins, but I know its solution.”

Steeled of mind, Amsler moved loquaciously forth, to a small stone mound in the middle of the clearing and there sat down upon it as branches reached out to him and insects flooded about his boots, exhuming the bones of the wood’s victims with their consumptive fervour.

He closed his eyes and inhaled as the stars, like arrows, fell from the welkin.

“I am unafraid of illusions, truthful though they be.”

When he opened his eyes the wood, and all within it, had gone. In place of the forest, a great sea of ash stretched out before him. The detritus began to shift, revealing a human form, skin cracked and glassy and breathless, and in its hand, a small bronze key, pristine amongst the flat, sandy expanse. Some fifty feet away from the ashen exhumation, a great manse stood out against the starless sky. Amsler observed the door of the house, which, like the key, was also of aged bronze. He bent to the curled corpse and trepidatiously reached towards the artifact.

Tomb of the Father: Chapter Two (Excerpt)

Author’s note: The following text is a short chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Tomb Of The Father. More chapter excerpts will be released in the coming weeks.


Gunvald woke in the dark and buried the brigand upon the northern hill opposite the shepherd’s encampment and departed from the old vaquero wordlessly, before his waking, as the halcyon sphere drifted up across the high, jagged peaks of the far mountain. He made his way over the thin, reedy grass from the northern hill and from there to the stony outcropping where he’d slept as the sheep bawled and yapped like insane children and then passed down between the precarious tors into the lowlands which were spotted here and there with small tufts of shrubbery and strange boulders incised with markings from some people that had since passed from the world’s collective remembrance. The man stopped as if the stones had rooted him to shade and slowly reached out to touch the curious monolith before him, gingerly running his dry and cloth-wrapped hands across the smooth-hewn crevices of the mighty artifact. He closed his eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply until his breathing became as rhythmic as a drumbeat and he felt as if his hands and those that had wrought the arcane inscriptions were one and the same. Past called to future. Dead to living. As if the stone were whispering to him, tales of forgotten times and well-lived lives and those less well lived and what their folly entailed for the ignorant persisting. It was a peculiar feeling, one that the weary traveler struggled to rationalize but felt powerfully all the same. At length, he opened his eyes and slowly withdrew his hand from the stone and retreated a pace and looked over the monolith entire, from tip to base and judged the breadth and width; some eight feet high, some seven feet wide. The weight of the thing the gods only knew.
When he’d taken in the stone in all its facets he turned full from it and made his way out through the bracken and quitch and past other stones, both larger and smaller than the first, and all similarly marked by ancient hands, the symbols there incised beyond the travelers reckoning. Here and there a recognizable representation, half-masked in abstraction: a man, a woman, a wolf, a bear, a fish, a snail, a tree. The symbol most oft represented was the wolf, over and over again it was inscribed, with near mechanical precision and a primal beauty that he’d scarcely witnessed in even the most technically proficient of paintings. He could almost hear its call.
Beyond the rune-stones the ground flattened out with astounding brevity, the bracken and quitch giving way to queer lichen and strange vines with small purple shoots and thick, raw swatches of muddy-clay, filled all with fetid water that buzzed with insects of every shape and size. The further out the man cast his gaze the larger the water-filled depressions grew until they merged unto a singularity, one vast marshen heap of rain-catch and sod and sand and silt. Bogland.
He recalled the old man’s words, “The first false step means death, to man or beast.”
Suddenly, there came a raucous calling, an intonation, nearby and strangely human. The traveler whirled, spotting, some forty yards out into the mire, a huge male ram, only his forelegs, chest, neck and horn-crowned head clear above the bog-hold. The creature struggled a moment, flailing its powerful legs against the silt and sand-water and then, quite suddenly, it vanished, sucked down at last; even the tips of its horns sinking below the grim surface of that plane of death.
Gunvald watched the unhappy affair with a mixture equal parts despair and fascination. It seemed too sudden to be real, the way the earth could so swiftly devour such a beast. Such a thing to the traveler’s mind was as fantastical as copper turning to gold or water to diamond. The bog had not been there when last he’d traversed the moor seven years ago. It seemed a whole panoply of lifetimes compressed into the scattered crystalline fragments of his memories and dreams.
He recalled the long march beside his kinsmen. How high their banners flew, the colors of all the clan houses of Tor; after decades of internecine violence, united at last against a common foe, the gray-men of the Hinterlands, those they called, Rimners. How young and wild and full of lofty opinions they had been…
As Gunvald looked out across the moor his opinions flew at considerably lower altitude.

*

Finding no passage through the peat, Gunvald opted to travel round it by the southernmost way. The trek lasted two days and brought him past all manner of rummy shrubs and bone piles and dying trees that looked more akin to the macabre props of a phantasmal play. Beyond the surmounted wetlands lay a quiet vale through which ran a babbling brook, girded on all sides by dry forest and vine, the ground verdant-lush and teeming with all manner of skittering things, both foul and fair. He sat by the snaking divet and withdrew a wood cup from his travel satchel and dipped it in the water and drank deeply, the liquid sweet and cool to his parched and desirous throat. Then he watched the solar plumes play across the waves as a small school of fish nudged up to the surface, their huge, lidless eyes gazing upon the sun-scorned figure as if appetent of conversation. Gunvald withdrew the last of his stock, a dry half-loaf of bread and broke it into small pieces, eating some and then throwing the rest to the fishes who gobbled at the flotsam and then nervously retreated, wary of Man’s latent, yet ever present, perfidy.
Moments later, the sound of creaking wood could be heard all throughout the vale, followed swiftly by a muted cascade of footfalls. The sound followed the wake of an old cart, rope-dragged by four men, filthy, disheveled and dressed all in furs. Their faces covered by cloth half-masks, securing the nose and mouth from nature’s multitudinous ravishments. Gunvald rose to observe the strange and solemn congregation, eyes widening with horror as he beheld their vessel’s grisly cargo.
Bodies.
Some fifteen in number, human and decaying under the harsh auspice of the sun, male and female alike, from babe to crone, covered in all manner of hideous rashes and boils, their skin ashen-red and peeling like the hide of some overripe fruit. Whatever disease it was that had snatched from them the breath of life seemed, for the moment, to have no hold upon the cart-pullers who paused momentarily, all turning to the man by the river.
One of their number addressed Gunvald sharply, as if in reprimand for some past transgression.
“What easy fool is this?”
“No fool, sir, but a soldier.”
“Those that here make passage well warrant the epithet. Canst thou not see our sorry wares?”
“Tis a pitiable sight. Whereby didst the sorry lot meet Dactyl’s scythe?”
Upon the utterance of that most singular name the men collectively gasped, the former speaker, a short man, bow-backed, balding and scar-faced, muttered a muted prayer and then gestured towards Gunvald as if casting some devious vermin from his presence.
“Sound not that unutterable traducement!”
“I meant no offense. Superstition has surely deranged thy temperament.”
“Enough, heretic, we darest not tarry, lest thee, with thy calumnious tongue, conjure some new evil to surpass the one that now burdens our aching backs!”
The other workers nodded as if there was great wisdom in the bald man’s words and then they adjusted their masks and ropes and muttered another prayer and bent once more to their toil and moved out across the rutted and grassy way, vanishing at last beneath the cavernous canopy of the wood, swallowed whole by the shadows therein.
Gunvald watched them go and decided to follow the cart-men at a distance, for their path and his were, for the time being, one and the same.
Gunvald rose and gave chase, passing through the thick and tangled forest of oak and ash and fir and gave silent thanks for the thick moss-bed beneath that masked the clattering of his bulky, armored frame. Over moss and stone and leaves, dead and alive, he walked, keeping himself well hidden and well apart from the odd foursome and their rickety old cart. After a couple hundred feet the forest opened up, the trees and shrubbery now growing more sparsely, the grass fading from green to yellow-green to a dull orange-yellow. Dying. The cart-pullers took a sharp right and passed fully beyond the forest unto a thin, dirt road that stretched out to the gray northwestern hill-lands like the great and ossified tendril of some mighty leviathan. The road ran down a slight decline in the hummock-ridden surface of the world and then diverged, one track splitting off to a small city to the south and the other branching to a butte over which rose the pass to the low, south-eastern mountains. Gunvald waited until the men had disappeared beyond the curvature of the earth and then took the lonely path towards the town stopping by a small, wooden sign, hastily constructed, which read:

Ħaberale

The sign was adorned with a large off-white arrow, comprised of some woodland dye, which pointed towards the clearly present outline of the town in the short-off distance, half obscured by small tussles of old trees which poked above a field of withering wheat and the ruins of some primeval fort that lay beyond, its towers brimming with black wings and hissing beaks. Before the man had fully risen from his observation of the sign, the sound of thundering hooves rose up from somewhere nearby, plumes of dust whirling from the immediate northern road. Shortly, a fearsome cavalcade stood before the weary and cautious wayfarer, five in number and all armed and armored in strict uniformity. Knights or sell-swords or something worse. Gunvald knew instantly they were not of the town, by both their expensive attire and peculiar breed of destrier, he fancied them denizens of Caer Tor, a kingdom someways off and rarely concerned with its outlying provinces. The leader of the group and the eldest, a man of middling height and some fifty years, at length addressed the armored wayfarer.
“Hail, traveler. A moment to query?”
Gunvald nodded in wordless acquiescence, though he knew that it was not a question proper.
“I am Cyneweard, second-commander of Tor. Word of brigand-raids have reached our gracious Lord, Cenhelm, and by his leave we make way to Haberale to rope the misbegotten scoundrels.”
“If that is thy venture then ye’ev headed the way awrong. Thy foe lies beyond the northern forest, past the bogland in the high moors.”
“Thou hast seen them?”
“Three nights past I was assailed upon the moor by three fiends, peasants, it seemed.”
“Three thou sayst?”
“Now two.”
The knight took the measure of the soldier before him, discerning flecks of crusted blood about his boots and nodded solemnly.
“I thank thee kindly. Might I inquire as to thy business, traveler?”
“My business is my own.”
“Suit thyself. One word of parting, kinsman, take heed in Haberale, the town is much changed. For the worse I am afeared. With thanks, we take our leave.”
Without another word the knights straightened in their leather saddles and flicked the reigns of their war-beasts and clattered off down the road toward the moor. When they had gone all was silent save for the heavy breath of the western wind that sent the traveler’s long, wavy locks aflutter. He brushed his mane from out his eyes and adjusted his scabbard-belt and wondered at the knight’s words. Haberale had always been a sleepy, little idyll, the only heed one had need to take was of how uneventful it was likely to be so as to better remedy the doldrums. He thought of the bandits and the dead men in the cart and the living ones pulling it and the strange masks on their faces, all deep, emerald green.
Times had changed indeed.
Gunvald left off down the way and crossed through the fading wheat and the hard clay ground and made camp in the ruins of some old fort as darkness closed about him in minacious plume.

*

Fiction Circular 3/8/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§. AUTHORS


¶From Glahn, Goats. The less that is said about Glahn’s absolutely fantastic tale of chanting stick-pointers, the better. Highly recommended (if, that is, it is still up, the author’s posts are removed at regular intervals).

*Best of the week.

“Merrily we walked out of the town in the opposite direction of the bridge. Out of the town. Grand, huh? to expel yourself, to follow the inclinations of self-exile! I had forgotten I was a single thing back there but now I felt my rugged old heart swell and spill-”

 

— Goats


¶From Julian Gallo (via Medium), An Ashcan Burns At The Feet Of Christ. An allegory, equal parts poetic and grim.

“In the back alleys of Jerusalem a prophet lies naked, drunk and covered in sick-”

— An Ashcan Burns At The Feet Of Christ


§. ORGANIZATIONS


¶From Cheap Pop, Hell, by Jennifer Wortman. A story of dogma and youthful social fracture.

“She’s a part of your world, like the buckeye tree at the edge of your yard and the cardinals and robins that land there, and the dandelions everywhere, and the fat worms shining on the sidewalk after it rains.”

 

— Hell


¶From Literally Stories, The Shroud of Tulsa, by John B. Mahaffie, a story of the ways in which the most mundane and miniscule details can be transmogrified into myth.

“So before too long, starting with Tina retelling the stories all that day, and forgetting details and substituting some of her own, we ended up with water turned into wine, a man walking on water, and what came to be called the Shroud of Tulsa, now Plexiglass-encased at the Free and Independent Church of the Almighty on Leedy Turnpike, out past the landfill. “Tulsa,” since “Shroud of Springdale” doesn’t sound like anything.”

 

— The Shroud of Tulsa


¶From STORGY, I Did Not Push My Wife Off A Cliff, by Steve Gergley.

“I was there. And let me just say that that game was a heck of a lot closer than fifty-eight to nothing would suggest to the layman—er, excuse me—laywoman—God forbid I offend anyone…”

 

— I Did Not Push My Wife Off A Cliff

From Terror House Magazine, Anfisa, by Serge Clause. A tale of longing set in Russia.

“As time went on, spring came and the frost stopped. My friends took out their iron horses, and we from Stars Town began to ride our motorcycles in Ulan-Ude.”

 

— Anfisa

¶From The Arcanist, Leave No Trace, by Gabrielle Bleu.

“The damage from the wildfire five months ago was extensive. The park still needed all hands to aid in its recovery. And there was that increase in poaching on protected lands, an abnormal thinning of elk and deer herds started shortly after the wildfire had subsided. Beth eyed her rifle case. Funny that, the way the two coincided.”

 

— Leave No Trace


¶From The Dark Netizen, Clouds. Ms. Jadeli (a commentator on Netizen’s site) had noted that, to her, it sounded like a “excellent beginning to a book.” I’d agree. Hopefully it will be expanded upon at a future-date.

“The villagers speculated that the boy was not right in his mind. They asked the other children to stay away from this child who seemingly suffered from poor mental health. However, the little boy did not mind being alone. He would hunt for food, bathe under the waterfall, and sleep on trees. He did not need anybody.”

 

— Clouds


¶From Surfaces, Terminal Lux, by Nick Greer, a peculiar, esoteric digression on simulation and class.

“:: dwell not on the epsilon beyond your binds.”

 

— Terminal Lux


¶From X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, The Whole Flow, by Angie McCullah, the story of motherhood, illness and the fluidity of emotion.

“It is now just the boy and me and boxes of a chemical his own body can’t supply and also the beta fish in a bowl I bought to cheer him up. We sit in a small rowboat, bobbing. If you were to pull back from the tiny craft, a sunset pink behind us and a whole gray ocean slippery with fish and other sealife below, we would look like two brightly colored scraps barely tethered by my outrage, which is better, at least, than liquefying and drowning.”

 

— The Whole Flow


§. LITERARY EPHEMERA

¶Nothing to report.


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Navigating Between Its’, It’s & Its

Its’, It’s and Its are some of the most commonly used (and misused) three letter word-forms in English. To use them properly it should be understood that its’ is always incorrect to use, thus anytime you see you’re writing its’, substitute it for either “it’s” or “its” depending on what the sentence requires.

It’s and Its, however, are proper, provided the context it right. Before one can use them, however, one has to be clear on the simple, but counterintuitive, difference between both words, which are as follows:

It’s means “it is” and “it has.”

Its is a possessive form and denotes ownership; for example: “This place has lost its charm,” or, “Its going to be a good day.”

This can be confusing because possession is generally denoted via the form which it’s takes, that is to say, if instead of, “This place has lost its charm,” one were to write, “Kyle’s lost his charm,” an apostrophe would be used between “Kyle” and the “s” whereas with “its” no apostrophe is added. The reason for this is due to the fact that possessive pronouns are never written with an apostrophe because they already imply ownership (ie. it was his; the cake was hers; this house is ours; please keep it, its yours).

With all of this in mind, it should be easy to correct the its’-it’s-its confusion in one’s writing.

Irregardless: Clarifying A Confounding American Neologism

One of the most irascible words in the English language is the American neologism, irregardless, popularized during the 20th Century and meaning: without consideration; or, not needing to allow for; or, heedless; or, without reguard. The word is a combination of both irrespective and regardless, which raises a rather peculiar problem, namely, that both of the base-words are synonyms, thus, engendering a double-negative.

Since both irrespective and regardless mean, roughly, “heedless,” when one is saying irregardless, what one is actually saying is heedless of heedless, or, more exactly, irrespective of disregard OR without without reguard.

Since here, one is disreguarding their disreguard, they are, in effect, maintaining their reguard (provided they had some to begin with), however, this is the precise opposite of the meaning entailed in the casual (as opposed to literal) usage of “irreguardless.”

The solution to this arcane conundrum is, thankfully, quite a simple one: don’t use the word. Both irrespective and regardless are synonyms to this confusing adverb, and hence, can take its place without any linguistic confusion UNLESS one is writing fiction and one is emulating a certain regional dialect.

Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Rare English Words

E. M. Forster once said, “English literature is a flying fish.” Logos has gone fishing and below provides the bounty of our catch.


adscititious — additional

absquatulate — to leave somewhere abruptly

anfractuous — winding or circuitous

anguilliform — resembling an eel

apple-knocker — (US informal) an ignorant or unsophisticated person

argle-bargle — copious but meaningless talk or writing

argute — shrewd

astrobleme — an eroded remnant of a large, ancient crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet

barn burner — (N. Amer.) a very exciting or dramatic event, especially a sports contest; first used in relation to an exceptionally good hand at bridge

benthos — the flora and fauna on the bottom of a sea or lake

bergschrund — a type of crevasse

bezoar — a small hard, solid mass which may form in the stomachs of animals such as goats or sheep

bibliopole — a person who buys and sells books, especially rare ones

bilboes — an iron bar with sliding shackles, used to fasten prisoners’ ankles

bindlestiff — (N. Amer.) a tramp

bingle — (Austral. informal) a collision

blatherskite — a person who talks at great length without making much sense

bobsy-die — a great deal of fuss or trouble

boffola — (N. Amer. informal) a joke that gets a loud or hearty laugh

boilover — (Austral. informal) a surprise result in a sporting event

borborygmus — a rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines

borborygmus — a rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines

bruxism — involuntary and habitual grinding of the teeth

bumbo — a drink of rum, sugar, water, and nutmeg

burnsides — a moustache in combination with whiskers on the cheeks but no beard on the chin

cacoethes — an urge to do something inadvisable

callipygian — having shapely buttocks

callithumpian — like a discordant band or a noisy parade

camisado — a military attack carried out at night

canorous — melodious or resonant

cantillate — to chant or intone a passage of religious text

carphology — convulsive or involuntary movements made by delirious patients, such as plucking at the bedclothes

catoptromancy — foretelling the future by means of a mirror

cereology — the study or investigation of crop circles

chad — a piece of waste paper produced by punching a hole

chalkdown — (S. African informal) a teachers’ strike

chiliad — a thousand things or a thousand years

claggy — (Brit. dialect) sticky or able to form sticky lumps

clepsydra — an early clock using the flow of water into or out of a container

colporteur — a person who peddles books, newspapers, or other writings

commensalism — an association between two organisms in which one benefits from the relationship and the other derives neither harm nor benefit

comminatory — threatening, punitive, or vengeful

concinnity — elegance or neatness of literary or artistic style

coprolalia — the involuntary repetitive use of obscene language

coriaceous — like leather

couthy — (Scottish; of a person) warm and friendly; (of a place) cosy and comfortable

criticaster — a minor or incompetent critic

crottle — a lichen used in Scotland to make a brownish dye for wool

croze — a groove at the end of a cask or barrel in which the head is fixed

cudbear — a purple or violet powder used for dyeing, made from lichen

cupreous — of or like copper

cyanic — blue; azure

dariole — a small round metal mould used in French cooking for an individual sweet or savoury dish

deasil — clockwise or in the direction of the sun’s course

decubitus — (Medicine) the posture of someone who is lying down or lying in bed

deedy — industrious or effective

defervescence — (Medicine) the lessening of a fever

deglutition — the action or process of swallowing

degust — to taste food or drink carefully, so as to fully appreciate it

deipnosophist — a person skilled in the art of dining and dinner-table conversation

dight — clothed or equipped; to make something ready for use

disembogue — to emerge or pour out (used of a river or stream)

disenthral — to set someone free from enslavement

divagate — to stray or digress

divaricate — to stretch or spread apart

donkey engine — a small auxiliary engine on a ship

donkeyman — a man working in a ship’s engine room

doryphore — a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic of others

douceur — a financial inducement or bribe

draff — dregs or refuse

dumbsize — to reduce the staff numbers of a company to such low levels that work can no longer be carried out effectively

dwaal — (S. African) a dreamy, dazed, or absent-minded state

ecdysiast — a striptease performer

edacious — that which is fond of eating

emacity — fondness for buying things

ensorcell — to enchant or fascinate someone

entomophagy — the eating of insects, especially by people

erf — (S. African) a plot of land

ergometer — an apparatus which measures energy expended during physical exercise

erubescent — reddening or blushing

eucatastrophe — a happy ending to a story

eviternity — eternal existence or everlasting duration

exequies — funeral rites

exsanguine — bloodless or anaemic

extramundane — outside or beyond the physical world

flews — the thick pendulous lips of a bloodhound or similar dog

floccinaucinihilipilification — the action or habit of estimating something as worthless

flocculent — having or resembling tufts of wool

forehanded — (chiefly N. Amer.) prudent or thrifty

frondeur — a political rebel

fugacious — transient or fleeting

funambulist — a tightrope walker

furuncle — a boil

fuscous — dark and sombre in colour

futz — to waste time or busy oneself aimlessly

gaberlunzie — (Scottish archaic) a beggar

gaita — a kind of bagpipe played in northern Spain and Portugal

gallus — (Scottish) bold or daring

gasconade — extravagant boasting

glabrous — (of skin) hairless or (of a leaf) having no down

glaikit — (Scottish & N. English) stupid, foolish, or thoughtless

gnathic — having to do with the jaws

gobemouche — a gullible or credulous listener

guddle — (Scottish) to fish with one’s hands by groping under the stones or banks of a stream

habile — deft or skilful

haruspex — a religious official in ancient Rome who inspected the entrails of sacrificial animals in order to foretell the future

hirquiticke — “one past fourteene yeeres of age, beginning to bee moved with Venus delight” (Henry Cockeram, An English Dictionary, 1623)

hoddy-noddy — a foolish person

hodiernal — of today

howff — (Scottish) a favourite meeting place or haunt, especially a pub

humdudgeon — an imaginary illness

hwyl — a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy which is associated with the Welsh people

illywhacker — (Austral. informal) a small-time confidence trickster

incrassate — thickened in form or consistency

incunabula — books printed before 1501

ingurgitate — to swallow something greedily

inspissate — to thicken or congeal

inunct — to apply ointment to someone or something

jumbuck — (Austral. informal) a sheep

jumentous — resembling horse’s urine

keek — (Scottish) to peep surreptitiously

kenspeckle — (Scottish) conspicuous or easily recognizable

kinnikinnick — substance consisting of dried sumac leaves and willow or dogwood bark, smoked by North American Indians

kylie — (Austral.) a boomerang

labaruma — banner or flag bearing symbolic motifs

logomachy — an argument about words

lollygag — to spend time in an aimless or lazy way

luculent — (of speech or writing) clearly expressed

macushla — Irish an affectionate form of address

meacock — a coward or effeminate person

merkin — artificial covering of hair for the pubic area

merrythought — a bird’s wishbone

mim — (Scottish) modest or demure in an affected or priggish way

mimsy — rather feeble and prim or over-restrained (coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass)

minacious — menacing or threatening

misogamy — the hatred of marriage

mistigris — joker or other extra card played as a wild card in some versions of poker

mollitious — luxurious or sensuous

monkey’s wedding — (S. African) simultaneous rain and sunshine

mouse potato — a person who spends large amounts of their leisure or working time on a computer

mudlark — person who scavenges in riverside mud at low tide for anything of value

muktuk — the skin and blubber of a whale, eaten by the Inuit people

nacarat — a bright orange-red colour

nagware — computer software which is free for a trial period and thereafter frequently reminds the user to pay for it

natation — swimming

noctambulist — a sleepwalker

noyade — an execution carried out by drowning

nugacity — triviality or frivolity

nympholepsy — passion or rapture aroused in men by beautiful young girls

obnubilate — to darken, dim, or obscure something

ogdoad — a group or set of eight

omophagy — the eating of raw food, especially meat

omphalos — the centre or hub of something

onolatry — the worship of donkeys

operose — involving or displaying a lot of effort

opsimath — a person who begins to learn or study late in life

orectic — having to do with desire or appetite

orrery — a clockwork model of the solar system, or the sun, earth, and moon

ortanique — a cross between an orange and a tangerine

otalgia — earache

paludal — living or occurring in a marshy habitat

panurgic — able or ready to do anything

parapente — aerofoil parachute, used for gliding

parapha — flourish after a signature

patulous — (of the boughs of a tree, for example) spreading

pavonine — to do with or resembling a peacock

pedicular — to do with lice

peely-wally — (Scottish) looking pale and unwell

peever — (Scottish) hopscotch

periapt — an item worn as a charm or amulet

petcock — a small valve in a steam engine or boiler, used for drainage or for reducing pressure

peterman — a person who breaks open and robs safes

pettitoes — pig’s trotters, especially as food

piacular — making or requiring atonement

pilgarlic — a bald-headed man, or a person regarded with mild contempt

pinguid — resembling fat; oily or greasy

piscatorial — connected with fishermen or fishing

pleurodynia — severe pain in the muscles between the ribs or in the diaphragm

plew — a beaver skin

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis — an invented term said to mean ‘a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust’

pogey — (Canadian informal) unemployment or welfare benefit

pollex — (Anatomy) the thumb

pooter — a suction bottle for collecting insects and other small invertebrates

portolan — a book containing sailing directions with hand-drawn charts and descriptions of harbours and coasts

posology — branch of medicine concerned with the size and frequency of doses of a medicine or a drug

possident — a possessor, i.e. a person who owns something

pother — a commotion or fuss

pre-loved — second-hand

presenteeism — the compulsion to spend longer at work than is required or to continue working despite illness

previse — to foresee or predict an event

probang  — a strip of flexible material with a sponge or tuft at the end, used to remove a foreign body from the throat or to apply medication to it

prosopagnosia — an inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, typically as a result of brain damage

puddle jumper — a small, light aircraft which is fast and highly manoeuvrable and used for short trips

puddysticks — (S. African) children’s word very easy

pyknic — a technical description of a stocky physique with a rounded body and head, thickset trunk, and a tendency to fat

pyroclastic — relating to fragments of rock erupted by a volcano

ragtop — a convertible car with a soft roof

ratite — (of a bird such as the ostrich or emu) unable to fly because of having a flat breastbone, to which no flight muscles are attached

rawky — foggy, damp, and cold

razzia — a raid carried out by Moors in North Africa

rebirthing — a form of therapy involving controlled breathing and intended to simulate the trauma of being born

resurrection man — a person who, in past times, illicitly exhumed corpses from burial grounds and sold them to anatomists for dissection

retiform — resembling a net

rhinoplasty — plastic surgery performed on the nose

rubiginous — rust-coloured

rubricate — to add elaborate capital letters (typically red ones) or other decorations to a manuscript

rude boy — Jamaican a lawless or rebellious unemployed urban youth who likes ska or reggae music

rug rat — (N. Amer.) a child

rumpot — (N. Amer.) a habitual or heavy drinker

sangoma — a traditional healer or witch doctor in southern Africa

sarmie — (S. African informal) a sandwich

saucier — a sauce chef

saudade — a feeling of longing or melancholy that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament

scofflaw — a person who flouts the law

screenager — a person in their teens or twenties who has an aptitude for using computers and the Internet

scrippage — one’s baggage and personal belongings

selkie — (Scottish) a mythical sea creature like a seal in water but human on land

serac — a pinnacle or ridge of ice on the surface of a glacier

sesquipedalian — (of a word) having many syllables or (of a piece of writing) using many long words

shallop — a light sailing boat used chiefly for coastal fishing

shamal — a hot, dry north-westerly wind that blows across the Persian Gulf in summer and causes sandstorms

shavetail — (US military slang) a newly commissioned officer, or any inexperienced person

shippon — (Brit. dialect) a cattle shed

shofar — a ram’s-horn trumpet used in Jewish religious ceremonies and, in ancient times, to sound a battle signal

skanky — (N. Amer. informal) revolting

skelf — (Scottish) a splinter or sliver of wood

skimmington — a kind of procession once undertaken to make an example of a nagging wife or an unfaithful husband

skycap — a porter at an airport

snakebitten — (N. Amer. informal) unlucky or doomed to misfortune

snollygoster — a shrewd or unprincipled person

sockdolager — (US informal) a heavy blow

solander — a protective box made in the form of a book, for holding items such as botanical specimens, maps, and colour plates

soucouyant — a kind of witch, in eastern Caribbean folklore, who is believed to shed her skin by night and suck the blood of her victims

soul case — (N. Amer. & W. Indian) the human body

soul catcher — a hollowed bone tube used by a North American Indian medicine man to keep a sick person’s soul safe while they are sick

spaghettification — the process by which (in some theories) an object would be stretched and ripped apart by gravitational forces on falling into a black hole

spitchcock — an eel, split and then grilled or fried

splanchnic — having to do with the the viscera or internal organs, especially those of the abdomen

spurrier — a person who makes spurs

stercoraceous — consisting of or resembling dung or faeces

sternutator — something that causes sneezing

stiction — the frictional force which hinders an object from being moved while in contact with another

strappado — a punishment or torture in which the victim was hoisted in the air on a rope and then allowed to fall almost to the ground before being stopped with an abrupt jerk

strigil — an instrument with a curved blade used by ancient Greeks and Romans to scrape sweat and dirt from the skin in a hot-air bath or after exercise

struthious — having to do with or resembling an ostrich

studmuffin — (N. Amer. humorous) a sexually attractive, muscular man

stylite — a early Christian ascetic who lived standing on top of a pillar

subfusc — the dark formal clothing worn for examinations and ceremonial or formal occasions at some universities.

submontane — passing under or through mountains, or situated on the lower slopes of a mountain range

succuss — to shake something vigorously, especially a homeopathic remedy

sudd — an area of floating vegetation that impedes navigation in a stretch of the White Nile

suedehead — a youth like a skinhead but with slightly longer hair and smarter clothes

sun-grazing — (of a comet) having an orbit which passes close to the sun

superbious — proud and overbearing

superette — (N. Amer.) a small supermarket

taniwha — a mythical monster which, according to Maori legend, lives in very deep water

tappen — the plug by which the rectum of a bear is closed during hibernation

tellurian — of or inhabiting the earth, or an inhabitant of the earth

testudo — a device used in siege warfare in ancient Rome, consisting of a wheeled screen with an arched roof (literally a ‘tortoise’)

thalassic — relating to the sea

thaumatrope — a scientific toy devised in the 19th century. It consisted of a disc with a different picture on each of its two sides: when the disc was rotated rapidly about a diameter, these pictures appeared to combine into one image.

thirstland — (S. African) a desert or large arid area

thrutch — (N. English) a narrow gorge or ravine

thurifer — a person carrying a censer, or thurible, of burning incense during religious ceremonies

tigon — the hybrid off spring of a male tiger and a lioness (the offspring of a male lion and a tigress being a liger)

tokoloshe — in African folklore, a mischievous and lascivious hairy water sprite

toplofty — (N. Amer. informal) haughty and arrogant

transpicuous — transparent

triskaidekaphobia — extreme superstition about the number thirteen

triskelion — a Celtic symbol consisting of three radiating legs or curved lines, such as the emblem of the Isle of Man

turbary — the legal right to cut turf or peat for fuel on common ground or on another person’s ground

umbriferous — shady

uncinate — (of a part of the body) having a hooked shape

uniped — a person or animal with only one foot or leg

uroboros — a circular symbol depicting a snake (or a dragon) swallowing its tail, intended as an emblem of wholeness or infinity

vagarious — erratic and unpredictable in behaviour or direction

velleity — a wish or inclination which is not strong enough to lead one to take action

verjuice — a sour juice obtained from crab apples or unripe grapes

vicinal — neighbouring or adjacent

vidiot — (N. Amer. informal) a habitual, undiscriminating watcher of television or videotapes

vomitous — (N. Amer.) nauseating or repulsive

wabbit — (Scottish) exhausted or slightly unwell

waitron — (N. Amer.) a waiter or waitress

wakeboarding — the sport of riding on a short, wide board while being towed behind a motor boat

wayzgoose — an annual summer party and outing that used to be held by a printing house for all its employees

winebibber — a heavy drinker

wish book — (N. Amer. informal) a mail-order catalogue

wittol — a man who knows of and tolerates his wife’s infidelity

woopie — an affluent retired person able to pursue an active lifestyle (from the initials of well-off older person)

wowser — (chiefly Austral./NZ) a puritanical, prudish person or a killjoy

xenology — the scientific study of extraterrestrial phenomena

ylem — (in big bang theory) the primordial matter of the universe

zetetic — proceeding by inquiry or investigation

zoolatry — the worship of animals

zopissa — a medicinal preparation made from wax and pitch scraped from the sides of ships

zorro — a South American kind of fox

Zyrian — a former term for Komi, a language spoken in an area of Russia west of the Urals