Sunday, December 16, 2012


Meaning:  sinuous, twisty, winding or craggy, rugged, coarse, rough, uneven. Whoever wrote the wiktionary definition decided to save time, and make it a (slightly poetic) list of synonyms as well as a definition. To be fair, the OED has "Winding, sinuous, involved; roundabout, circuitous; spiral" or "rugged, craggy". Apparently conjunctions are not necessary when it comes to this word.

Usefulness: 1 ("Your anfractuous arguments do not deceive me, good sir!" "My GPS'* route may be anfractuous, but you can't deny it is scenic.")

Logofascination: 1 (Various sources suggest that, etymologically, it is a cousin to the rather lovely frangible.)

In the wild: It's the name of a river in Joel Stickley's podcast, The History of Grob, historical satire so satirical it becomes true. See: Meander.**

Degrees: 1 (Part of the charm of Sir Thomas' vocabulary is its unpredictability - things that should turn up don't, and when you least expect it, he whips out anfractuosities.)

Connections: n/a (If you're going to argue about anfractuous being different to/from anfractuosities, you'll hopefully be sidetracked by the difference between different to and different from.)

Which is used in: G&P, Book the Third, XXXI: How the physician Rondibilis counselleth Panurge. Sir Thomas manages to add 101 words, anfractuosities being just one of them, to Rabelais' original sentence. Perhaps this is where anfractuous' association with lists of synonyms begins:
Lest you should think it is not so, be pleased but to contemplate a little the form, fashion, and carriage of a man exceeding earnestly set upon some learned meditation, and deeply plunged therein, and you shall see how all the arteries of his brains are stretched forth and bent like the string of a crossbow, the more promptly, dexterously, and copiously to suppeditate, furnish, and supply him with store of spirits sufficient to replenish and fill up the ventricles, seats, tunnels, mansions, receptacles, and cellules of the common sense,--of the imagination, apprehension, and fancy,--of the ratiocination, arguing, and resolution,--as likewise of the memory, recordation, and remembrance; and with great alacrity, nimbleness, and agility to run, pass, and course from the one to the other, through those pipes, windings, and conduits which to skilful anatomists are perceivable at the end of the wonderful net where all the arteries close in a terminating point; which arteries, taking their rise and origin from the left capsule of the heart, bring through several circuits, ambages, and anfractuosities, the vital, to subtilize and refine them to the ethereal purity of animal spirits.
For all Sir Thomas' circumlocutions, the passage also demonstrates Rabelais' medical and anatomical knowledge.

*satnav, depending on your jurisdiction.
**Alright, yes, I only know the etymology of meander because it's mentioned in The Horologicon. 

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