Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Anfractuosity

A friend and fellow inmate here at the nuthouse learned that I am in search of special words, so she donated this special word for me from her readings. To say the least, I absolutely love this word; it’s beauty, its nuance! I love this word so much that I am going to start reading Proust! After you see this wonderful but much too rare word, you will agree that it is a very very worthy word for the day.

This word came from Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume I by Marcel Proust (Moncrieff & Kilmartin translation).


Anfractuosity (an-frak-choo-OS-i-tee) [Origin: Latin anfrāctuōs(us) winding (anfrāctu(s) a bend]

noun

  1. the state or quality of being anfractuous.
  2. a channel, crevice, or passage full of windings and turnings.
  3. The condition or quality of having many twists and turns.
  4. A winding channel, passage, or crevice.
  5. A complicated or involved process.

Usage: Whereas upon that pestilential, enviable staircase to the old dressmaker’s, since there was no other, no service stair in the building, one saw in the evening outside every door an empty, unwashed milk-can set out, in readiness for the morning round, upon the door-mat; on the despicable, enormous staircase which Swann was at that moment climbing, on either side of him, at different levels, before each anfractuosity made in its walls by the window of the porter’s lodge or the entrance to a set of rooms, representing the departments of indoor service which they controlled, and doing homage for them to the guests, a gate-keeper, a major-domo, a steward (worthy men who spent the rest of the week in semi-independence in their own domains, dined there by themselves like small shopkeepers, and might to-morrow lapse to the plebeian service of some successful doctor or industrial magnate), scrupulous in carrying out to the letter all the instructions that had been heaped upon them before they were allowed to don the brilliant livery which they wore only at long intervals, and in which they did not feel altogether at their ease, stood each in the arcade of his doorway, their splendid pomp tempered by a democratic good-fellowship, like saints in their niches, and a gigantic usher, dressed Swiss Guard fashion, like the beadle in a church, struck the pavement with his staff as each fresh arrival passed him.

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Comments

  1. #1 Glenn Branch
    November 29, 2006

    The word appears in Boswell’s Life of Johnson: “Having asked Mr. Langton if his father and mother had sat for their pictures, which he thought it right for each generation of a family to do, and being told they had opposed it, he said, ‘Sir, among the anfractuosities of the human mind, I know not if it may not be one, that there is a superstitious reluctance to sit for a picture.’” Johnson’s dictionary defines anfractuousness as “fulness of windings and turnings.”

  2. #2 alfons
    November 29, 2006

    Hope you enjoy Proust, too!

  3. #3 Tabor
    November 29, 2006

    Sounds to me like the definition for you life?

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