Monday, January 28, 2019

The Nursery Frieze Defined

 The Nursery Frieze was published by Edward Gorey through his Fantod Press in 1964 in a limited edition of 500 copies. Inspired by a recent Facebook post by the Edward Gorey House, here are all 96 words being muttered by the animals parading in single file in the book, along with their definitions. Some words have more than one meaning. For these, the definition most likely to appeal to or be used by Mr. Gorey was chosen.
Archipelago - Any large body of water with a chain of islands
cardamon - Aromatic seeds used as a spice or condiment
obloquy - Damning or censure of a person or thing by the general public
tacks - A short, sharp pointed nail, usually with a rounded head
Ignavia - Idleness or sloth
samisen - Japanese musical instrument with a long neck and three strings, played with a plectrum
bandages - A strip of cloth or other material used to bind a wound
wax - A solid, yellowish substance secreted by bees
gavelkind - Equal division of land among the heirs of the holder
tumeric - A powdered plant rhizome used as a yellow dye or condiment, as in curry powder
imbat - A cooling etesian wind in the Levant (as in Cyprus)
cedilla - A mark (¸) placed under a consonant letter, as under c in French, in Portuguese, and formerly in Spanish, to indicate that it is pronounced (s), under c and s in Turkish to indicate that they are pronounced, respectively, (ch) and (sh), or under t and s in Romanian to indicate that they are pronounced, respectively, (ts) and (sh).
Cassation - An annulment, cancellation, or reversal. Also, an 18th Century instrumental musical suite intended for outdoor performance
hendiadys - A figure in which a complex idea is expressed by two words connected by a copulative conjunction: “to look with eyes and envy” instead of “with envious eyes.”
quincunx - An arrangement of five objects, such as trees, in a square with one at each corner and the fifth in the center
vanilla - Extract from an orchid pod, used in flavoring food
Corposant - A corona discharge in the air caused by atmospheric electricity causing a luminous region that sometimes appears around church spires, the masts of ships, etc.
madrepore - any stony coral forming reefs or islands in tropical seas
ophicleide - a musical wind instrument consisting of a conical metal tube bent double
paste - A mixture of flour and water used to bind two objects together
Jequirity - A poisonous scarlet colored pea used for making necklaces and rosaries
tombola - British lotto or bingo played with paper and pencil as a gambling game.
sphagnum - Any soft moss found in bogs, used in floral arrangements and for dressing wounds
distaste - disinclination or dislike
Aceldema - The land near Jerusalem purchased with the bribe Judas took for betraying Jesus
lunistice - The farthest point of the moon's northing and southing, in its monthly revolution
yarlborough - A hand in Bridge or Whist containing no honor cards
cranium - The part of the skull that encloses the brain
Febrifuge - A serving of medicine to dispel or reduce fever
ampersand - A symbol to represent "and"
hubris - Excessive pride or self-confidence
geranium - Common garden flower. Also, a tone of the color red
Opoanax - A semitransparent resin used in incense
thunder - a loud noise produced by the explosive expansion of air heated by a lightning discharge
dismemberment - To remove limbs
baize - A soft green fabric resembling felt, used chiefly for the tops of billiard tables
Hellebore - Any of several plants of the buttercup family, the Christmas rose
obelus - A mark (− or ÷) used in ancient manuscripts to point out spurious, corrupt, doubtful, or superfluous words or passages
cartilage - A firm, elastic, flexible type of connective tissue of a translucent whitish or yellowish color; gristle
maze - A confusing network of intercommunicating paths or passages; labyrinth
Anitgropelos - Waterproof leggings
piacle -A sacrificial offering
occamy - A metallic alloy that simulates the precious metals silver and gold. (Side Note: In the world of Harry Potter, an Occamy is a winged serpentine beast found in Asia whose eggs have shells made of silver. The Occamy can grow or shrink to fill any space. Perhaps J. K. Rowling has a copy of The Nursery Frieze herself.)
whistle - To make a musical sound by expelling air through a small space made by contracting the lips
Maremma - A marshy region near the seashore
accismus - The feigned refusal of something earnestly desired
badigeon - A composition for patching surface defects in carpentry or masonry
epistle - A letter, especially a formal or didactic one
Quodlibet - A subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological or scholastic subject.
catafalque - A raised structure on which the body of a deceased person lies or is carried in state
hiccup - The condition of having spasms
remorse - A strong feeling of sadness and regret about something wrong that you have done.
Idioticon - A dictionary of dialect
gibus - Another name for an opera hat
botargo - A relish consisting of the roe of mullet or tunny, salted and pressed into rolls
divorce - The formal ending of a marriage by law
Phylactery - Something worn as a talisman or charm
gegenschein - A diffuse faint light, sometimes visible almost directly opposite the sun in the night sky
clavicle - Collarbone
sago - A white substance obtained from the trunks of palm trees used for making sweet puddings.
Bellonion - An early 19th Century mechanical musical instrument consisting of twenty-four trumpets and two kettle drums
thurible - A censer for burning incense
aphthong - A letter or combination of letters used in spelling a word but not pronounced., eg "gh" in "knight"
plumbago - Graphite
Amaranth - An imaginary flower that never fades or dies
rhoncus - A whistling or snoring sound of the chest when the air channels are partly obstructed
pantehnicon - A furniture removal van drawn by horses
hymn - A religious song that Christians sing in church
Diaeresis - A pause in a line of verse occurring when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word
purlicue - The flourish at the end of a pen stroke
sparadrap - A sticking plaster
whim - A sudden wish to do or have something that seems to have no serious reason or purpose
Cicatrix - A scar
salsify - An edible plant whose root tastes like oysters
palindrome - A word, line, verse, number, or sentence that reads the same backward as forward
Bosphorus - A strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
Narthex - A porch or portico at the west end of a church reserved for penitents and others not admitted to the church itself
betrayal - To deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty
chalcedony - A translucent variety of quartz, often milky or grayish
phosphorus - a poisonous yellowish-white chemical element that glows slightly, and burns when air touches it
Ligament - A band of tissue serving to connect bones
exequies - A funeral procession
spandrel - The area between two adjoining arches, or between the head of a window on one level and the sill of a window immediately above
chandoo - An extract or preparation of opium that is smoked
Gehenna - Any place of extreme torment or suffering, but specifically the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, where propitiatory sacrifices were made to Moloch
etui - A small case, especially for needles
anamorphosis - A drawing presenting a distorted image that appears in natural form under certain conditions, as when viewed at a raking angle or reflected from a curved mirror
glue - A protein gelatin boiled in water, that when melted or diluted is a strong adhesive
Wapentake - A subdivision of a shire or county corresponding to a hundred
orrery - A mechanical apparatus for representing the positions, motions, and phases of the planets, satellites, etc., in the solar system
aspic - A savory jelly usually made with meat or fish stock and gelatin
mistrust - To regard with suspicion or doubt
Ichor - An ethereal fluid flowing in the veins of the gods. ALSO: An acrid, watery discharge, as from an ulcer or wound.
ganosis - A process of toning down the glare of marble as practiced by sculptors in classical antiquity, especially on nude parts of a sculpture
velleity - A mere wish, but without the conviction to act upon it
dust - A cloud of finely powdered earth or other matter in the air.

How many of these words can find their way into daily conversation?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Playboy Magazine

Over the course of his career, Edward Gorey created many pieces for Playboy Magazine to accompany articles and humorous essays. You Can Take It With You by comedian Dick Martin appeared in the January 1971 issue of the magazine. The tag line for the illustration says it is by "Ed Gorey", which is an unusual way of crediting Mr. Gorey.

Edward Gorey created a wickedly funny illustration for this article. A trysting couple appears naked out of doors in a moonlit grove beside a lake, their bodies hidden by an oversized suitcase. The hirsute gentleman sports a 1970's porn star mustache and the woman's hair has an abandoned carefree look. The strategically placed travel stickers on the suitcase show Mr. Gorey's naughty sense of humor. Not only do the stickers represent the private parts of the couple, they also comment on said parts. The gentleman's prominent erection is straining above a pair of blue balls. The woman's breasts are red hot, while the triangular sticker indicates that she is not a natural blonde. It will be a night to remember.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mary Rogers

Born on this date in 1931, Mary Rogers (January 11, 1931 to June 26, 2014) was a musical theater composer, performer, and the author of four children's books. Three of her four children's books have cover designs by Edward Gorey.

Freaky Friday (published by Harper and Row, 1972) tells the story of a day when thirteen year old Annabel Andrews and her mother switch bodies by unexplained means. The switch is initiated by Mrs. Andrews as an object lesson for her daughter, who through the course of the day comes to appreciate her mother and herself more fully.

A Billion for Boris (published by Harper and Row, 1974) once again visits the Andrews family. This time, Annabel, her boyfriend Boris, and brother Ben known as "Ape Face". When Annabel's brother fixes a broken television set, the TV shows programming from the future. Boris tries to make some money betting on upcoming horse races, while Annabel tries to help people who will fall victim to future ill fortune. Ape Face just wants to watch the forbidden afternoon Creature Feature program.

The third installment, Summer Switch (Harper and Row, 1982) once again finds the Andrews family switching bodies, this time Ape Face and his father simultaneously wish they were in each others shoes, and once again a day long adventure ensues.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Name On Everybody's Lips Is Gonna Be, GOREY!

Since its publication in early November, Born to be Posthumous, The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genious of Edward Gorey by author Mark Dery has started a veritable avalanche of reviews, articles, and chat group discussions about Edward Gorey. There seems to be no stopping the rockslide, and for better or worse here are links to a number of the musings:

New York Times Book Review, Sunday January 6, 2019

The Atlantic, December 28, 2018

The New Yorker, December 10, 2018

New York Times, October 30, 2018

The New Republic, November 30, 2018

New York Times, December 31, 2018

New York Times, January 4, 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Yorker Cover

The December 10, 2018 issue of the New Yorker magazine featured a previously unknown drawing by Edward Gorey on its cover. The art was one of two pieces submitted by Mr. Gorey in 1992, but remained unpublished until last month (full story:

This deliciously complex drawing of two pampered cats relaxing in an overwrought Laura Ashley-style bedroom is an amusing visual commentary on the dizzying use of fabrics in layers found in "country chic" decorating. Hopefully, the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust will issue this image as a jigsaw puzzle in the near future.