Saturday, December 21, 2013

Unusual Words from Gravity's Rainbow

Here and there around the Web you'll find lists of vocabulary words culled from Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon's epic postmodern novel about the deployment of the V-2 rocket in World War II. I couldn't resist compiling such a list myself. I've been a professional writer, a student of the English language, for almost 40 years, and like Thomas Pynchon himself, I spent a good deal of time employed as a technical writer. It's not often I come across a word in English I've never seen before, but in reading Gravity's Rainbow, one finds oneself accosted by such words with metronomic regularity; which (if you're a student of the language) is a pleasant surprise indeed.

In the table further below are a few English words I'd not seen used in any novel before. (I've omitted words relating to architecture and fabrics, two areas where Pynchon seems to have developed a fetishistic devotion to lexical obscurata. Likewise, I make no attempt to list engineering terms, which are legion in Gravity's Rainbow.)

In case you want to try to catch a feel for the actual prose whence these words came, a Chinese site has the entire text of Gravity's Rainbow online, as follows:


I don't advocate attempting to read the entire book online, nor do I believe anyone would be so foolhardy as to try to do so. (I do strongly advocate buying the book or obtaining it from the library.) These links are meant as sample entry points.

Here, then, without further ado, are a few words I encountered in Gravity's Rainbow that I cannot recall encountering in any other novel in English:

Of or relating to the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.
(verb) To decorate tastelessly.
The state of being only partly or scantily clothed.
(verb) To sleep in a usually uncomfortable place that does not have a bed.
An adventurous, daring, or chivalric enterprise
Coastal waters in Scotland and England.
(verb) Make excuses for.
A criminal carrying a gun.
nacre, nacreous
Nacre is mother-of-pearl, nacreous is thus a pearlescent or lustrous and iridescent white sheen.
Of or relating to dreams or dreaming.
1. A large van, esp one used for furniture removals. 2. A warehouse where furniture is stored.
Ornamental trimming for a garment, as braid, lace, or metallic beads.
1. The action of passing over or disregarding a matter, esp. the rhetorical technique of making summary mention of something by professing to omit it. 2. (in Calvinist theology) Omission from God's elect; nonelection to salvation.
A wharf or reinforced bank where ships are loaded or unloaded.
Of or relating to ricketts, the vitamin-deficiency disease.
Wind erodes snow from the windward side of an obstacle and deposits it on the lee side. Sastrugi are the ridge-like formations of snow thus produced.
Bony fish (such as tuna, swordfish) are scombroid fish. May also refer to illness (poisoning) from eating tainted fish of this general category.
Any of many needle-like crystalline structures that provide skeletal support in marine invertebrates.
A punishment identical to the offense (eye for an eye).
A wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action, e.g. "the notion intrigued me, but remained a velleity."


  1. Was that an old English spelling of Quai? I think this word is still used in modern Navy jargon as of my term of enlistment 1992-1998 but spelled quay.

  2. Thanks for sharing.I found a lot of interesting information here. A really good post, very thankful and hopeful that you will write many more posts like this one.

  3. The free robux generator is used for the free robux generation for the roblox robux game to play free.

  4. FreeFlix HQ Android APK is a downloadable application that can be stacked on to FreeFlix HQ APK an Android TV box or your Windows or Mac OS

  5. Cyberflix was never formally shut, Cyberflix TV yet vanished with Appleton

  6. Know how to type degree symbol on any device Degree Symbol
    Silent Ghost HD

  7. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting blackmart. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work! blackmart apk

  8. Buy Custom Online Homework Assignments Writing Services and experience unique Cheap Assignment Writing Services with your requirements or instructor’s instructions.

  9. Nice collection. I got more info from your website. Thanks for sharing.
    you may check out this website Best wireless router

  10. Tudo é muito aberto, com uma explicação clara dos problemas. Foi definitivamente informativo. Seu site é muito útil. Obrigado por compartilhar!

  11. Those ESL assignment writing services have an advantage of hiring the best English language coursework writing service company that is familiar with ESL assignment help services for their English Language Writing Services.




  13. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.Please visit here:
    Local Packers And Movers Bangalore

  14. you can get help from our Affordable Writing Services Online And improve your overall grades.
    Online Assignment Help

  15. The Foundation can uphold one crisis demand for every family. The way to life may incorporate a lot of turns and winds . In spite of the penances, they have made to ensure us Needs is there to help Into monetary challenges in light of sending or Other military-related injury or activity. Expecting to cover hospital expenses, home, or fundamental things includes pressure veterans and their families through an enormous progress. Help veterans encountering hardships. what grants do i qualify for Veterans can pick any of the association that help them in Financial Turbulent.

  16. Marvelous, what a web site it is! This weblog provides helpful data to us, keep it up. Feel free to visit my website;

  17. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is excellent blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back. Feel free to visit my website;

  18. A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post Also visit my website:

  19. I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I?|ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website. Feel free to visit my website; 일본야동

  20. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work
    John Dutton Jacket Yellowstone 4

  21. Determining whether you are eligible to apply for and receive a federal grant … eligible for a specific funding opportunity, you would waste a lot of time …

  22. Very nice article. Thanks for sharing this article. Nowadays, most families are facing financial issues. It is because of the COVID-19 pandemic.If you need money

  23. While survey wild creatures right at home is a dazzling encounter and was an cruises acknowledged standard close to a decade prior, the reality stays that we are hunting them significantly more so today.

  24. One way to get free food in the United States is by consuming any type of food that is not intended for human consumption (e.g., produce from a garden, seafood caught without processing, etc.). You can also try looking for places that offer free food such as at grocery stores or restaurants. Check out


Add a comment. Registration required because trolls.