Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday: Old Verb Edition

I love seeing how word usage has shifted over time. Reading Anna Katherine Green’s The Mill Mystery, I came upon the following sentence:

“But as we approached the mill, and I caught a glimpse of its frowning walls glooming so darkly from out the cluster of trees that environed them, I own that a sensation akin to that which had been awakened in me by Mrs. Pollard’s threats, and the portentous darkness of her somber mansion, once again swept with its chilling effect over my nerves.”

Quite a mouthful, but what struck me was that two root words appear as verbs, although we now usually see them as nouns – “glooming” and “environ.” So I headed to the dictionary.

gloom: (archaic verb) to make murky or dark
environ: ( verb) to form a ring around

Interesting to think of the environment as a ring around us, isn’t it? And of gloom actually obscuring our real selves? What Wondrous Words have you come across this week?

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. To participate, and to see what other words readers have come across this week, head over to BermudaOnion’s Weblog. Thanks to Kathy for hosting!


  1. Very cool word usage! The only Anna Katherine Green mystery I've been able to find is The Leavenworth Case. Will be interested to hear what you think about The Mill Mystery.

  2. Thanks, Bev. Do you have an e-reader? I got The Mill Mystery along with 99 other complete books for $2.99. It has novels by Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Anna Katherine Green, Edgar Allan Poe, Sax Rohmer and Mary Roberts Rinehart. It's not awesome to navigate through, as the individual books are treated as "chapters." But for $2.99, it's awesome to have on the Kindle. The title is "The Classic Mystery Collection."

  3. When I was a kid and I would be in a grumpy mood my dad would say I was glooming up the joint. I always thought it was just his word. Thanks for bring back a fun memory. And thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm glad I found yours.

  4. We have the verb "environner" in French = to surround and the word "environ" = about.
    Thanks for sharing

  5. I love your explanation of these two verbs, now nouns. Sometimes change is funny. I really enjoyed the language in the quote. Very vintage, but very beautiful. I'm off to Amazon to purchase The Classic Mystery Collection. Thanks for sharing your find.

  6. It is interesting the way the use of words evolves with time and you gave some great examples!

  7. Interesting! Great spin on Wondrous Words Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  8. I love the way words change, too! I think Jane Austen hints at the change in the meaning of the word "nice" in her novel Mansfield Park. I have a book called The Evolution of Language that I haven't read yet, but also talks about things like this- for example, there are words like "discombobulated," but no one says "combobulated," which must previously have been a word...


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