I am back in the card room, having finally dispatched my last hero and his unexpected guest, and settling back into my game of whist. However, for the first time that I have been witness to, Lady B has decided to sit in on a rubber.
Lady B: I am constantly amazed by your complete disregard for anything other than cards, Miss Noble. You attack your play with a bloodthirstiness that is uncommon in your sex.
Kate: …Thank you? I suppose that to be a compliment.
Lady B: Yes, especially when delivered by someone who has the final trump.
Lady B lays her last card and I blanche. She had been holding that Heart all game, and I had completely forgotten it! With that trick, she had taken the game.
Lady B: Another rubber, my dear? I am surprised to have won – you are such a yare player, after all.
Kate (still peevish from losing): if you say so, Lady B.
Albert: <squawk!> Sore loser! <squawk!>
I glare at Albert as Lady B deals out another hand.
Lady B: What do you mean, my dear? Do you not wish to play again?
Kate: I’m happy to play – however, my comment was in reference to that word you used. ‘Yare’?
Lady B: Do you not know what ‘yare’ means? How is that possible? Samuel will be appalled.
I look up from the middling cards that Lady B had just dealt me, to find that a heavy-set man in a wig was looming over the table. Admittedly, the wig throws me – why, wigs had gone out of fashion with the turn of the century – but what throws me more is how Lady B introduces him as he takes a newly empty chair at the table.
Lady B: Miss Noble, this is Dr. Samuel Johnson. He’s an author too, you know.
I do know. Dr. Johnson is a bit of a celebrity of his time – an author, a critic, and an essayist. But he is perhaps best known for writing what is considered the English language’s first comprehensive dictionary. In 1755.
Kate: So the space-time continuum just doesn’t exist in this ballroom, is that it?
Dr. Johnson: What is that, child? Space-time continuum? I do not know if I have that word in my dictionary.
Kate: Er – nevermind. Dr. Johnson, it is a pleasure to meet you.
Dr. Johnson: Indeed the pleasure is mine. And call me Samuel. I am quite illaqueated by your charms. Rumor has it your card play is quite fatidical.
I exchange a glance with Albert. The parrot shrugs.
Kate: Dr. Johnson – er, Samuel — I’m afraid I do not know what you mean.
Dr. Johnson: Now, now, don’t demur, child –
Lady B: No, she really does not know what you mean, Sam. These young authoresses do not have the same words as you and I do.
Dr. Johnson: Really? I find myself hebetated! Er, and by that, I mean ‘stupefied’, young lady.
Kate: I’m afraid it is true, Dr. Johnson. Where I come from, there are many words in your great dictionary that have fallen out of favor and into obscurity throughout the ages.
Dr. Johnson: Is my life’s work for naught then?
Kate: No, of course not! But English is a fluid language, it changes with time and need. I wager that there are hundreds of words – words like ‘gearshift’, ‘meme’, and ‘Decepticon’ – from my time that will disappear from the lexicon within a century. Having them written down – like you did with your dictionary – is the only way of preserving them and their meanings.
Dr. Johnson: Well, that is a relief. I swear you had my heart apitpat with your pronunciations! Now, shall we play? And Lady B, do you think we could procure some belly-timber? I tried to prog some refreshments but the hallways in this house are so anfractuose I found myself in huggermuggers thrice!
This time I look at Lady B. And this time, she is the one to shrug.
Lady B: There are times even I do not know what he is saying, Miss Noble.
While Lady B and I try to decipher just what on earth Dr. Johnson is talking about, tell us what are some of your favorite obsolete or esoteric words? Because if I cannot beat Lady B at cards, I need to make certain that I have ammunition to best her at Words with Friends.