Monday, July 31, 2006

Hapax Legomenon: phthistical

In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, we come across the odd term: phthistical.

The term "phthisical" concerns consumptive, as in tuberculosis - the white death. With tuberculosis * the lungs deteriorate with infection, wheezing and whiteness of the skin appears. Eventually, there is no lung capacity and therefore the hemoglobin can no longer be oxygenated.

Lovecraft uses the very exotic "phthistical" rather than the more usual "phthisical".

"I am grown phthistical ... from the cursed river air."

Highly moist air was considered to be a cause of tuberculosis**.

The term is clearly Greek, but the form is exotic. The Greek is phthisikos, from phthisis which means consumptive - tubercular.

*Chrispy has toured Waverly Hills Sanitorium twice, and each time I've come away with a sadness of the thousands who died. Yes, I did experience oddness, and both times saw an eerie blue light about the size of a firefly (lightning bug) flit about the broken rafters.

** In Louisville, Farmington is a well restored home from the turn of the nineteenth century. Most beds in those days were arranged so that the sleeper rested inclined, to keep fluids from building in the lungs from the very damp summer air.


HPl was a wordsmith and loved to pull exotic words from thin air. The medium in which he published was that of horror and fantasy pulps. This is not to say the readership was illiterate - in fact the teenagers and factory workers who read Weird Tales fiction wanted to feel uplifted. *

Still, the use of "anent" is extraordinary. I found it twice in Charles Dexter Ward's text.

"...he and Smith were summoned to give testimony annet details..."

"...he had black suspicions of his own annet Joseph Curwen..."

It means "concerning".

If you find it elsewhere, please post a note.

Later, Chrispy will quote from some letters to the editor to show just how well read and erudite some readers were.

hapax legomenon: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

Hapax legomenon is the technical term of when a word appears only once - or relatively infrequently in a corpus.

Today we look at "hi-jackers".

This word originated in criminal slang, but notably appears in a very early Ernest Hemingway piece in 1920. Through some roundabout means, HPL uses the word a scant 7 years later in the passage, "... one of the frequent sordid waylayings of trucks by 'hi-jackers' in quest of liquor shipments...".

Here, HPL tosses right in the middle of erudite scholarship of the Salem Village witch trials a word of common jazz age coinage.

*The earliest example cited in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from 1923 and the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang lists a use of "hyjack" to mean "an armed robber" : Ernest Hemingway in 1920. I have not been able to track down the exact text, however.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A poem by Chrispy

I Crave

Things that creep in the night,
Things that gasp, groan, and bite,
Wizards foul with second sight,
They electrify me with awful fright.

Grisly litchs dripping foul,
The far off hooting of an owl,
Werewolves out on the prowl,
I cringe at their deadly howl.

Tsathoggua casts a spell with frog,
Something follows through the bog,
I hear the bark of a ghostly dog,
echo through phosphorescent fog.

Then miasmic mists of sulphur smell,
Stain the air from the depths of Hell.
Something grasps me like liquid gel,
Like the ancient curse did fortell.

Now, I’ve got a rash, a fever.
My flesh ! It's begun to shiver.
My insides are all a’quiver.
My God! I think I crave your liver …

Hoorah! 250! A quarter of a thousand posts! mwhahahaha

Thank YOU.

Sorry for the hiatus. I'll write as fast and furious as possible. There will be another "time out" coming soon, though. Day job pays the bills!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Shub-Niggurath where has the time gone?

Chrispy feels like he's been in a time displacement. Nearly a month? >gasp<

My thought of the day is this. I was just listening to The "New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" radio shows of the 1940's starring the incredible Basil Rathbone * and Nigel Bruce. The Tobaccanist Murders (and a zillion other Holmes stories) featured Inspector Lastrasse.


The Call of Cthulhu has Inspector Legrasse.


We all know - you shoud if you have read Chrispy's nefarious archives - that HPL was a childhood fan of Sherlock Holmes. He often featured snippets of Holmes, notably in The Hound!! {heh}.

And all those comments about revolvers - probably came from Holmes and the many dime novels HPL devoured.

* Basil Rathbone also recorded a marvelous recitation of Poe stories and poems. It is to die for {heh}.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thank You ...

... for being loyal readers of the archives in my prolonged absence.

The day job has been very intense and yet I am brimming over with new ideas for the blog.

Keep the faith, and I'll back soon with more postcard history, exclusive HPL associated ephemera and anecdotes you won't find elsewhere. I'm working on new Homage, Mythos and King in Yellow stories, too. Stay tuned.

Best Regards,



Actually an African Frog taken at the Louisville Zoo this weekend. (c) Chris Perridas, 2006.


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