Cover art’s by Ashley Wood — and a very nice atmospheric picture of the floating city Armada and its accompanying airships it is. Go check out his website — he does kick-ass, grungy robots and human figures. Some posing super-chicks, which I get a little tired of, but, ah, well.
Dambudzo Marechera: According to Wiki, Marechera (1952-1987) was “a Zimbabwean novelist and poet. ” The article says of his 1980 novel Black Sunlight, which Mieville quotes at the beginning of the The Scar: “Loosely structured and stylistically hallucinatory, with erudite digressions on various literary and philosophical points of discussion, it explores the idea of anarchism as a formal intellectual position.” This article from the Virginia Quarterly Review sums the novel up like this: “The book’s setting is not specified; the story roughly traces the fortunes of a group of anarchists/revolutionaries who are in revolt against, and finally lose out to, a military-fascist-capitalist opposition. The central character is a press photographer, Chris, whose camera lens becomes the device through which Marechera often cleverly unravels the story’s incidents; other important characters through whom the story is sometimes focalized are a group of young women, one being Chris’s blind wife.” Sounds rather Mieville like, don’t it? Though I’d link it up more with Iron Council than The Scar.
Disphotic: According to a glossary in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, refers to “the part of the water column that is barely illuminated by sunlight from above; the “twilight zone” between the photic and aphotic zones” — with the “photic zone” being “the vertical zone in the ocean extending from the surface to that depth permitting photosynthetic activity” and the “aphotic zone” being “that portion of the ocean where light is insufficient for plants to carry on photosynthesis.” So, it’s the murky area between full sunlight, supporting robust plant life, and no sunlight, where plant life cannot exist.
“To the left the slope falls away fast into disphotic water.” (3)
Slipways: “A sloping surface leading down to the water, on which ships are built or repaired.”
“The shoreline is punctuated with scores of shipyards, building slipways like weird forests of vertical girders.” (10)
Dolorous: “Marked by or exhibiting sorrow, grief, or pain.”
“The wind blew across the ship, and the deck’s periscopic cowls crooned like dolorous flutes.” (19)
Abaft: A nautical term, meaning “Toward the stern” (of a ship).
“Instead of heading abaft for the mess, she wound down side passages through dim space, past poky doors.” (27)
Chalkydri: According to the Old Testament apocryphal Second Book of Enoch, a form of angel “marvellous and wonderful, with feet and tails in the form of a lion, and a crocodile’s head, their appearance is empurpled, like the rainbow; their size is nine hundred measures, their wings are like those of angels, each has twelve, and they attend and accompany the sun, bearing heat and dew, as it is ordered them from God.”
Sardula: According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, a mythical Indian creature, with the body of a lion and the head of a “tiger, elephant, bird, or other animal,” which often appeared in art and architecture. It’s also called “vyala.”
“‘I’ve a foot-long gash where a sardula got nasty . . . a bite from a newborn chalkydri . . .” (30)
Piasa: According to Wiki, “a legendary creature that was depicted in a mural painted by Native Americans on a cliff above the Mississippi River.” The French missionary Jacques Marquette described the creatures in the murals: “They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish’s tail.”
Marichonian: Not sure; this term doesn’t appear in a Google search, and I don’t recall it being related to any of Mieville’s created places or races. My only thought is that it might refer to solely-homosexual (or perhaps transvestite?) pirates (as “maricon” or “maricone” is apparently a slur for “homosexual” or “transvestite” in Spanish). That’s going out on a limb, though.
“Shekel told him the rumors and fables that the sailors told each other — about the piasa and the she-corsairs, Marichonians and the scab pirates, the things that lived below the water.” (31)
Somite: “Any of the homologous segments, lying in a longitudinal series, that compose the body of certain animals, such as earthworms and lobsters.”
“Below the waist, the crays’ armored hindquarters were those of colossal rock lobsters: huge carapaces of gnarled shell and overlapping somites.” (43)
Kraal: “1. A rural village, typically consisting of huts surrounded by a stockade. 2. An enclosure for livestock.”
“They slide silently into the kraals.” (67)
Kree: Dunno. The only references I’m finding to Kree are to the Marvel comic’s alien race. Which is pretty patently not right.
“Fish and kree circled them and passed through them dumbly.” (75)
Corbita: A large, slow-moving merchant vessel, apparently — looks like particularly used of an ancient Roman type. This site has a definition and a picture.
“Beside the market was a corbita smeared with ivy and climbing flowers.” (80)
Whim: A use of the word to imply a fantastical type of ship, perhaps? “Whim” can also mean “A vertical horse-powered drum used as a hoist in a mine,” which sounds mechanism-y, but not, I’m guessing, relevant here.
“Out in the open water were fleets of fishing boats, the city’s warships, the chariot ships and whim trawlers and others.” (81)
Gessin: Can’t find a mythological/folkloric basis for this one. A Mieville creation?
Vu-murt: Defined in various bestiaries and folklore texts (give it a look-up on Google Books) as a European water-spirit (the word literally translates as “water-man”), which appears as a man (to women) or a woman (to men), sitting by the water, combing long black hair. Looks like it’s usually a malicious spirit.
“. . . surrounded by the women and men in lush, ragged dress, the street children, the cactacae and kephri, hotchi, llorgiss, massive gessin and vu-murt, and others.” (83)
Barquentine: “A sailing ship with from three to five masts of which only the foremast is square-rigged, the others being fore-and-aft rigged.” Pics at Wiki.
“She passed up onto the barquentine Lynx Sejant, its deck full of silk merchants selling offcuts from Armada’s piracy.” (84)
Entresol: “The floor just above the ground floor of a building; a mezzanine,” with “mezzanine” being “1. A partial story between two main stories of a building. 2. The lowest balcony in a theater or the first few rows of that balcony.”
“The man in gray straightened slowly and walked to the corner of the entresol.” (90)
Keragorae: Dunno. A Mieville created species?
“‘He’s seen keragorae and mosquito-men and unplaced, and whatever else you like.'” (93)
Hypnagogic: “1. Inducing sleep; soporific. 2. Of, relating to, or occurring in the state of intermediate consciousness preceding sleep.”
“‘He can make his voice hypnagogic if he wants, keep you totally drunk on it.'” (94)
Murrain: “1. Any of various highly infectious diseases of cattle, as anthrax. 2. Obsolete A pestilence or dire disease.”
“. . . but every batch of press-ganged was afflicted with fevers and murrains on its first arrival, and several of their number inevitably died.” (99)
Carrel: “A partially partitioned nook in or near the stacks in a library, used for private study.” I should have known this one.
” . . . with a sudden long sigh she deposited the monograph in the carrel beside the desk.” (110)
Oupyr: Looks like a Russian variant of “vampire,” according to a search on Google books.
Katalkana: A 1988 play, The Vampyre, has a character claim that, on Crete, “katalkana” is a term for vampire.
“‘The Brucolac. He’s oupyr. Loango. Katalkana.'” (113)
Nauscopist: A term derived from “nauscopy,” “The power or act of discovering ships or land at considerable distances.” Here’s a link to a story about the Frenchman Bottineau, who named nauscopy in the 1700s.
“The city’s nauscopists watched the sky, and knew from its minute variations when vessels were approaching . . .” (115)
Whip-round: “(British) solicitation of money usually for a benevolent purpose.”
“When a dockside accident took off half a cactus-woman’s hand with a jag of glass, Tanner gave what eyes and flags he could spare to the whip-round.” (118)
Adumbrate: “1. To give a sketchy outline of. 2. To prefigure indistinctly; foreshadow. 3. To disclose partially or guardedly. 4. To overshadow; shadow or obscure.”
“What manner of things were those shadows he sometimes glimpsed, behind the tightly tethered guard sharks, unclear through what must be adumbrating glamours?” (118)
Taffrail: “1. The rail around the stern of a vessel. 2. The flat upper part of the stern of a vessel, made of wood and often richly carved.”
“Balustrades and taffrails buffeted in the cold wind by the ragged remnants of posters . . .” (120)
Concatenation: From the verb “concatenate,” meaning “1. To connect or link in a series or chain. 2. Computer Science To arrange (strings of characters) into a chained list. 3. Connected or linked in a series.”
“Such an intricate concatenation of narratives.” (127)
Biltong: “Narrow strips of meat dried in the sun.”
“. . . the only real trade they have is with the savages from the north, who turn up in coracles once a year, carrying stuff like biltong.” (131)
Catafalque: “1. A decorated platform or framework on which a coffin rests in state during a funeral. 2. Roman Catholic Church A coffin-shape d structure draped with a pall, used to represent the corpse at a requiem Mass celebrated after the burial.” So, Mieville’s appropriating it here to mean simply an ornamented platform?
“. . . great houses looming to either side on ornate catafalques. . .” (136)
Vambrace: “Armor used to protect the forearm.”
“. . . hardened cuirasses and greaves and vambraces and helmets with irregular edges and coloration . . .” (151)
Salp: “Any of various free-swimming tunicates of the genus Salpa, of warm seas, having a translucent, somewhat flattened, keglike body.” A”tunicate” is “Any of various primitive marine chordate animals of the subphylum Tunicata, having a rounded or cylindrical body that is enclosed in a tough outer covering. Tunicates start out life as free-swimming, tadpolelike animals with a notochord (a primitive backbone), but many, such as the sea squirts, lose the notochord and most of their nervous system as adults and become fixed to rocks or other objects. Tunicates often form colonies.” More on salps at Wiki.
“‘That tower there’–some irregular smudge–‘was the skin library, and those were the salp vats.'” (165)
Binnacle: “A case that supports and protects a ship’s compass, located near the helm.” Picture and more on binnacles at Wiki.
“They sat with their backs to an overgrown stump, or perhaps the earth-smothered anatomy of a binnacle.” (165)
Mercus: Dunno. “Mercus” seems usually to just be a name, sur- or first, both, when I look it up using Google.
“‘There are fields of oil and rockmilk and mercus under the earth, Bellis.'” (175)
Euryhalinic: Derived from “euryhaline,” meaning “Capable of tolerating a wide range of salt water concentrations. Used of an aquatic organism.”
“‘They’re euryhalinic, the grindylow, happy in freshwater or brine.'” (177)
Cog: According to the OED, “A small ship’s-boat, esp. the small boat which is often towed behind a coasting vessel or ship going up or down river. Often used typically as the smallest or lightest of floating craft.”
“They dangled their legs like children over the side of a little cog, watching the cranes shift cargo.” (185)
Dinichthys: “A genus of large extinct Devonian ganoid fishes. In some parts of Ohio remains of the Dinichthys are abundant, indicating animals twenty feet in length.” I loved pictures of these in dinosaur books when I was little — they are nasty-looking buggers. Wiki has an article on the biggest variety, which includes mention of Mieville’s reference.
“He had never seen a dinichthys, a bonefish.” (187)
Atomy: I’ve seen this used to mean “tiny particle,” “tiny thing,” “mote” before, but Mieville may be using it in a different, less common sense here: The OED says the word can mean “An emaciated or withered living body, a walking skeleton” — and can be applied to skeletal, withered objects as well as living things.
“They pass beggars in the atomies of buildings.” (194)
Corokanth: Dunno again. It’s a sea-creature-ish thing, clearly. Maybe derived from a similar-sounding or -spelled word?
“The corokanth will not tell.” (196)
Gurn: “1. To complain in a whining voice. 2. To contort one’s face; grimace.”
“They bribe them, funneling tons of plankton in a panicked soup into the whale’s gurning grins.” (197)
Anophelii: A fantasy race name derived from “anopheles,” which is, according to OED, “A mosquito of the genus Anopheles, which conveys the parasite of malaria.”
“Kruach Aum is anophelii.” (201)
Mechonomy: A created word, I think, using the ending “nomy”: “A system of laws governing or a body of knowledge about a specified field.” So about machines, mechanics, or mechanisms?
“Shivering Wisdom publish in High Kettai: philosophy and science and ancient texts, gnostic mechonomy and the like.” (205)
Spillikins: Another name for the game of “jackstraws” — “A game played with a pile of straws or thin sticks, with the players attempting in turn to remove a single stick without disturbing the others” — or for the jackstraw sticks themselves. Pick-up sticks is another name for the same game.
“They shuffled and reshuffled them, dropped them like spillikins and watched how they fell.” (221)
“. . . where their parents played their own games, backgammon and chatarang.” (237)
Tup: According to OED, “Of the ram: To copulate with (the ewe); also transf. (coarse slang), of a man: to copulate with (a woman).” So Bellis is claiming this word for the female gender. Go, feminist subversive Bellis ;P
“. . . she might even tup him again, she thought with an inadvertent smirk.” (238)
Pinchbeck: “1. An alloy of zinc and copper used as imitation gold. 2. A cheap imitation. 3. Made of pinchbeck. 4. Imitation; spurious.”
“There were rumors, in fact, that the Uroc was as counterfeit as a pinchbeck ring.” (246)
Gutta-percha: “A rubbery substance derived from the latex of any of several tropical trees of the genera Palaquium and Payena, used as an electrical insulator, as a waterproofing compound, and in golf balls.”
“There were vats of chymicals and resin and gutta-percha to seal the enormous gasbags.” (254)
Blodfrey: This doesn’t show up on a Google search. And yet I feel like I’ve read the word before. Frustrating.
“There were sacks of the distinctive yellow blodfrey that boiled up into the anticoagulant tea.” (255)
Corvette: “1. A fast, lightly armed warship, smaller than a destroyer, often armed for antisubmarine operations. 2. An obsolete sailing warship, smaller than a frigate, usually armed with one tier of guns.” Here’s the Wiki article on ’em.
“The Sculpture Garden took up the front of a two-hundred-foot corvette.” (256)
Sponson: “1. Any of several structures that project from the side of a boat or ship, especially a gun platform. 2. A short, curved, air-filled projection on the hull of a seaplane, imparting stability in the water.”
“Opposite him was the enormous sweeping curve of the Grand Easterly’s starboard sponson, the cover to the paddlewheel.” (263)
Freggio: I only find one mention of this as a real-world word, used in the sense Mieville uses it — to mean “A scar inflicted by a lover, to indicate possession (and to make the scarred party unattractive to *other* possible lovers).” It appears in a caption explaining a painting by Christian Schad, here, and suggests the practice was once a Neapolitan one. I’m be curious to know if there are any more reputable sources, further documenting this as a real-world practice and giving more context for it, out there.
“‘The scars: they’re called freggios.'” (282)
Flense: “To strip the blubber or skin from (a whale, for example).”
“‘Spent all his life on one or other of those little rocks, casting his nets and lines, gutting and cleaning and filleting and flensing.'” (283)
Boscage: “A mass of trees or shrubs; a thicket.”
“Beyond the boundary of the stringy boscage that edged the beach, the trails became more defined.” (290)
Precis: “1. A concise summary of a book, article, or other text; an abstract. 2. To make a précis of.”
“. . . it was only Aum she listened to, and she told Bellis to precis all other contributions.” (309)
Cincture: “1. The act of encircling or encompassing. 2. a. Something that encircles or surrounds. b. A belt or sash, especially one worn with an ecclesiastical vestment or the habit of a monk or nun.”
“. . . the cinctures have tightened, and the thing is trapped.” (411)
Osculum: “The mouthlike opening in a sponge, used to expel water.”
“. . . the toothed osculum a puncture-hole of dark. . .” (430)
Milliard: “Chiefly British The cardinal number equal to 109” — that is, a billion.
“Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable . . .” (435)
Mafadet: According to Wiki, “In early Egyptian mythology, Mafdet (also spelled Maftet) is depicted as a woman with the head of a cheetah. Her name means (she who) runs swiftly. She is present in the Egyptian pantheon as early as the First Dynasty. Mafdet was the deification of legal justice, or rather, of execution. Thus she was also associated with the protection of the king’s chambers and other sacred places, and with protection against venomous animals, which were seen as transgressors against Ma’at.” She is sometimes depicted as a cat or cheetah. So, Mieville is either using the word to mean “cheetah” or to mean a mythical feline predator. Oh, that’s right, there was a mafadet in Perdido Street Station — I think it was a lion with a snake’s neck and head? Can’t quite remember.
“. . . the gazelle, the wildebeest, the mafadet, and the lion.” (445)
Backstay stool: Well, a “backstay” is “1. A rope or shroud extending from the top of a mast aft to a ship’s side or stern to help support the mast. 2. A supporting device at or for the back of something else.” And a “backstay stool” is defined as “A short piece of broad plank, bolted edgeways to the ship’s side, in the range of the channels, to project and for the security of the dead-eyes and chains for the backstays. Sometimes the channels are left long enough to answer the purpose.” Here’s a dead-eye. Still not sure how that connects with stools. . .
Coaming: “A raised rim or border around an opening, as in a ship’s deck, designed to keep out water.”
Pawl: “A hinged or pivoted device adapted to fit into a notch of a ratchet wheel to impart forward motion or prevent backward motion.”
Davit: “Any of various types of small cranes that project over the side of a ship and are used to hoist boats, anchors, and cargo.”
Cathead: “A beam projecting outward from the bow of a ship and used as a support to lift the anchor.”
“The cadavers of vessels incorporated. Backstay stools, coaming, pawls, davits, and catheads encased in salt-aged architecture.” (509)
Hakenmann: According to the Encyclopedia Mythica, “A malevolent water spirit in Teutonic folklore. His name means ‘Hook Man.'” According to this book, it has the body of a fish and the torso and head of a man. The word’s used, in the novel, in reference to the grindylows, if I remember right.
“What is it you propose, hakenmann?” (514)
Flitch: “1. A salted and cured side of bacon. 2. A longitudinal cut from the trunk of a tree. 3. One of several planks secured together to form a single beam.” I assume Mieville’s using it in the third sense. . . ? Seems not quite right, though. . . The OED says it can also mean “the side of an animal” — like “flank,” I assume?
“The great flitches of the ships moved above and around them sedately. . .” (533)
“In camera:” According to Wiki, a Latin term translating as “in chamber” and meaning, in a legal sense, “in private” — as in, in private meetings which the public may not attend or witness.
“Even those other rulers who disapproved of the Lovers’ plans had given in, or only spoke their criticisms in camera.” (538)
Purulent: “Containing, discharging, or causing the production of pus.”
“There were great swathes of it ahead, a bobbing purulent mass.” (543)
Echurian: Well, Wiki says “echiurans” are “spoon worms, a small group of marine animals. They are composed of a sausage-shaped, cylindrical trunk and an anterior proboscis. They are usually a drab gray or brown color, but some such as Bonellia, are green, and others are red or rose. A few are transparent. The proboscis is large, flattened projection of the head and cannot be retracted into the trunk.”
“Johannes saw the faint flickerings of blind, eel-like hagfish; squat echurians; thick, blanched trilobites.” (549)
Corium: “The sensitive connective tissue layer of the skin located below the epidermis, containing nerve endings, sweat and sebaceous glands, and blood and lymph vessels.” Pretty sure Mieville’s using it to just mean “skin.”
“Quite suddenly the corium below them was precipitous, a callused dermal cliff into dense darkness.” (550)
Trimaran: “A fast sailboat with three parallel hulls.”
“Then he hurled himself toward the rear of an ancient war trimaran by the Grand Easterly’s side. . .” (563)
Trireme: “An ancient Greek or Roman galley or warship, having three tiers of oars on each side.”
“She stared at the trireme below her.” (565)
Prognathous: “Having jaws that project forward to a marked degree.” Rather redundant with “jutted,” isn’t it?
“They jutted prognathous jaws, their bulging teeth frozen in meaningless grimaces. . .” (571)
Pabulum: “1. A substance that gives nourishment; food. 2. Insipid intellectual nourishment.”
“‘We siblings cross from the dark cold of the lake, from pabulum towers and the vats, the algae palace, from The Gengris.” (572)
Parados: “An intercepting mound, erected in any part of a fortification to protect the defenders from a rear or ricochet fire; a traverse.”
“The hidden positions of The Gengris on the Cold Claw side; the paradoses and defenses; the traps.” (574)
Strath: “A wide, flat river valley.”
“A wide runnel scored at the bottom of a strath.” (575)
Bleb: “1. A small blister or pustule. 2. An air bubble.”
“As the day crawled on, the tens of frozen bodies became blebbed and misshapen.” (581)
Avanc: According to Wiki, the “afanc” is “a lake monster from Welsh mythology. Its exact description varies; it is described alternately as resembling a crocodile, beaver or dwarf-like creature, and is sometimes said to be a demon.” The article mentions Mieville’s appropriation and adaptation of the word.