Trivia I learned from books, Vol. 6

Today’s book-learned trivia is brought to you by the letter R and the letter W. I found them in my recent reads The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos.


     1.  Remora: as in, “He’s always been the child who stuck close. My remora, Elizabeth had called him, my fat little barnacle.”

remora1When I read that in Belong to Me I thought maybe it was another suction-cup type of sea creature. I’ll take my award now because I was right! Remoras are also called “sucker fish,” are brownish 1-3 foot long fish that have a “modified sucker like organ” on their fin.

I watch Animal Planet a lot and recognize the remora from all the shark/ocean shows I’ve seen.

Check out the full Wikipedia article here. 

     2. Wight:as in, “Your duty is to the graveyard…to those who form this population of discarnate spirits, revenants, and suchlike wights…”

Context clues in this sentence from The Graveyard Book told me “wight” was probably some sort of synonym for ghost, but it sounded like such an interesting word I wanted to know more!

I’m so glad I looked it up, I heart etymology! Wight is Middle English word (can be found in lots of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and John Milton) meaning living being, or creature. It seems Germanic in origin.

The Wikipedia article goes on to mention, “More recently, the word has been used within the fantasy genre to describe undead or wraith-like creatures: corpses with a part of their decayed soul still in residence. Notable examples of this include the undead Barrow-Wights from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and the wights of Dungeons & Dragons.”

Now I’m afraid of all the D&D google hits I’m going to get. Sigh. But anyways I don’t know jack about D&D nor do I remember the “Barrow-Wights” from Tolkien since I haven’t read anything by him since I was in middle school.

Wight also made me think of Isle of Wight, and wondering where it got it’s name so now Wikipedia/Google has sucked me into it’s never ending vortex of information. I will be gone for quite sometime…


Trivia I learned from books, Vol. 5

I know a lot of trivia (for ex: there are [were?] blue people in West Virginia, boring article and more interesting article if you don’t believe me) and from my earlier trivia posts you can see a lot of it I learned from books. No worries, I have real life experiences and street smarts too, people! I am NOT just book smart.

Maybe if I keep telling myself that it will be true.

I read in phases, sometimes lots of paranormals, or contemporary chick lit, or historical romance. This week’s trivia comes from the latter category:

    1. Gold fede ring: as in “As Cyn slid the gold fede ring on Chastity’s finger, tears sprung to her eyes.”

fede_ringWhile (duh) I know what a gold ring is, why did Jo Beverly in My Lady Notorious include “fede” in there? To start off with “fede” is an Italian word directly translating to “faith” in English, but has many other connotations.

 Turns out a fede ring has two hands clasped together and the design has been commonly used as a betrothal ring or other unifying signifance throughout antiquity.

In regards to popularity during certain time periods I found: “from the 12th through the 17th centuries it was a fairly common form of marriage ring and occasionally employed as a ring that connoted friendship. Most were in silver or silver gilt, few in gold. The motif is seen again in the 19th century [when My Lady Notorious takes place] and still found today.”

What this all reminds me of is the rings my Irish friends have worn with two hands holding a heart with a crown. Usually as a “promise ring” or Claddaghring“engaged to be engaged” ring, or sometimes my friends’ parents have given it to them. That one is called a Claddagh ring, and is under the umbrella of “fede rings” and is just a distinctive type of the larger group.

I am so happy I decided to look this up! How romantic is that?!?! I love the symbolism it represents,  how meaningful the design can make the ring, and can just imagine how being given something with special connotations like this would make the wearer feel!

    2. Odalisque: as in “And there you were Sophie, my very own odalisque come to bewitch me.”

From the context of Banallt’s conversation with Sophie in Carolyn Jewel’s Scandal I guessed it was something positive to be called? Maybe mythical? Egyptian?

I was pretty much wrong there. “An odalisque was a female slave in the harems of the Ottoman Empire. While not a concubine of the harem, it was possible that she could become one. Odalisques were ranked at the bottom of the harem’s social structure.” So um yeah, that doesn’t seem very nice of Banallt to call Sophie that!

 HOWEVER upon reading further it turns out odalisque took on a slightly different meaning, “During the 19th century [when Scandal is set], odalisques became common fantasy figures in the artistic movement known as Orientalism, being featured in many erotic paintings of the era.”

Well now, that’s better Banallt!

La Grande Odalisque, JAD Ingres. 1814

La Grande Odalisque, JAD Ingres. 1814

Trivia I learned from books Vol. 4

Every now and then in the 782354 books I read I’ll come across a phrase, word, or noun that seems like I should know what it is, but I don’t. The author slipped it in like it was common knowledge and there are some context clues, but I need to know more! So off to Google and Wikipedia I go!

Even though I know what it means when a Hero is “pinked” in a fencing duel at dawn in Hyde Park, or what a doppelganger is, or I recognize the romantic quote “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” from the Bible…in my recent reads I ran across a few new-to-me bits of trivia:

1. Rilke: as in “Henry was known to quote Rilke to aid in expressing himself.”

From the context in Time Traveler’s Wife I figured Rilke was some type of rainer_maria_rilkewriter, but I hadn’t heard of him before. I didn’t feel too bad about that since I didn’t like Henry very much and thought he came off as a trying-too-hard-hipster, but I looked up Rilke to see what I was missing out on. According to his Wikipedia page he was a famous 20th Century German poet, traveling across Eastern Europe, Russia, and finally settling in Switzerland. He met Leo Tolstoy, had a relationship with a woman student of Freud, and his writings were of a philosophical nature .

Yeah, that’s not really my style, but now I can sound more edumicated!

2. ankh: as in “Quinn arranged the giant ankh on the stage to prepare for the vampire wedding ceremony.”

credit radiowood2000 on Flickr

credit radiowood2000 on Flickr

So when I read this in All Together Dead it wasn’t the first time I had heard about an ankh, don’t worry, I’m not THAT out of it. But while I thought I knew what one was, I wanted to be sure, and also to understand what it symbolized. As soon as I looked it up it made TOTAL sense in that scene.

The ankh was an Egyptian hieroglyphic character for “eternal life.” Well duh, that would be good to use at a vampire ceremony.

3. Jimmy Smits: As in “The vampire entering Merlotte’s looked like a twin of Jimmy Smits.”

This was from one of the Sookie books, don’t ask me which one, I just read alljimmy_smits 9 of them in the past 7 days. I got NO context clues and I felt like an idiot for not recognizing that name , but when I checked out his IMDB page I didn’t feel so bad. I was a bit young to see him on L.A. Law, and I don’t watch NYPD Blue or The West Wing. That last sentence makes me sound un-American, oh well!


4. Rhodes, IL: as in “The vampire summit was being held in Rhodes, outside Chicago. Our hotel was right next to Lake Michigan!”

So I’m from outside Chicago and I couldn’t place where Rhodes was. I racked my brains, checked google maps, and mapquest for a Rhodes IL, Rhodes WI, or Rhodes IN.

Yeah, it’s a fictional place. FML.

I feel dumb.

I mean I knew Bon Temps, LA didn’t exist either, but with Dallas, Shreveport, and New Orleans all being featured, my brain was on “non fictional cities” track.

Trivia I Learned from Books, Vol. 3

Not to toot my own horn (that’s what she said) but I think I have a pretty good vocabulary. I also know lots of random bits of trivia, I mean geez I sambasDID win our 6th grade regional trivia competition by naming the 2nd largest city in England. I remember the day so vividly, down to what I was wearing – my favorite Gap t-shirt with blue flowers, umbros shorts, and Sambas ::eyes glaze over in fond memory::

Of course for every one bit of trivia I DO know, there are 82438 others out there waiting for me to discover, and reading certainly helps! Looking at my past Trivia posts I realize that a lot of the things I have had to Google-search seem to be common knowledge, and this post might be no exception, but at least now I know!


her dress is SO SUPER CUTE. i wish i could wear frills and bows every day

1. La Pompadour: as in “Leonie tried to snatch a glance at La Pompadour sitting behind the King, but the Duke pulled her away.”

Now from the context of this scene with Leonie and the Duke in These Old Shades I could figure out that she was the King’s mistress, but why was she important? My old friend Wikipedia explained that she was born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (haha her last name was Fish) of common parents but was beautiful, intelligent, and refined. Her first marriage raised her up in society and King Louis XV took notice of her. She became his mistress and he made her the Marquise de Pompadour which is a place in central France.

Now I’m not going to go into her political influence, but rather concentrate on more important things, like why did her name sound familiar to me? Because of the pompadour hairstyle of course! It is named after her.

Also she might have contributed to a common theme in my historical romance novels – the color of the more slutty chemises, nightgowns, and other frippery always seems to be the same. The more sensual and provocative ones seem to typically be some purple color and there are vague references to this being a “mistress color”- according to Wikipedia La Pompadour’s favorite color was purple, so maybe that’s where the authors got it? Otherwise its a huge coinkydink (people still say that, right?).

2. Londinium: as in “In 450A.D. Caius served his cruel master near Londinium.”

In Bryan’s Vexing the Viscount the hero and herione are searching for treasure hidden by an Roman slave named Cauis in the 5th century. Now OBVI this is some latin-ish word for London, but would you believe I had NEVER heard it called that before???!! Ugh, what an idiot. When I looked it up I though the story of the founding of London was SUPER interesting, I read about it for hours. Instead of plagiarizing Wikipedia because I haven’t done that since graduating college, you can read more about it here.


Trivia I Learned from Books, Vol. 2

So the last time I had a “trivia” post was a few weeks ago, not because I haven’t picked up any new trivia, but because I was bad at keeping track of it. Even if a word or item is unknown to me I can figure it out based on the context, but more often I just skim over it without bothering to look it up, so I’m going to try and get better at that, which is where my first bit of trivia comes in:

1. Cowslip: As in “Fiver nibbled on his exciting discovery of cowslip until a member of the Owsla pushed him aside.” Now that sounds like a right bit of gibberish, n’est ce pas?

Well I was reading Watership Down where the rabbits have their own language (Lapine) and unique social structure. Even though I learned to understand Lapine I’m not going to count that as trivia, like just because I know what I muggle is and what wingardium leviOHsa (not leviosA) would do to someone doesn’t count.

cowslipSo, back to cowslip, the author Richard Adams is a nature enthusiast and wrote several other non-fiction works about nature, botany, and the English countryside, and throughout Watership Down he includes paragraphs and pages on these topics as well. When I first read this book as a child I’m sure I skimmed over all these bits, and to be honest I definitely did a bit of skimming this time around too, but cowslip was mentioned so often (and was even one of the rabbit’s names) that I felt I should look it up.

Cowslip is a flowering plant with tiny yellow flowers and is generally found in open ground such as fields and meadows. The picture didn’t look too familiar to me, but hey, now I can keep an eye out for it!

2. Imagineer:As in “Randy always knew he wanted to be a Disney Imagineer when he grew up.”

Randy in his Disney shirt

Randy in his Disney shirt

I just finished The Last Lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch, and anyone riding the orange line metro at rush hour yesterday would have seen me awkwardly tearing up. Randy’s childhood dreams were inspiring, even more so since he worked hard to make EVERY SINGLE ONE come true! But I don’t know how I could have missed out on knowing what a Disney Imagineer was!

I mean I am a horrible drawer (or any type of art really) but I love Disney as much as the next person, I just never knew what the behind the scenes people were called, I just enjoyed their work. (Wow that sounds snobby, but sadly true, I mean I don’t think about where the chicken breasts at the grocery store come from either)

So apparentlyan Imagineer is like an engineer but better – “an employee of Walt Disney Imagineering…developing ideas and attractions for Disney parks. During the construction of a major project, Imagineers sometimes are deployed to work on-site for six months to a year. Imagineers may include artists, writers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, model builders, construction managers, technicians and designers.”

Well those are the two that I remembered recently, keep an eye out for more consistent installments!

Trivia I Learned From Books, Vol. 1

No matter what genre I’m reading, I always pick up new vocab and trivia as I turn the pages. I usually don’t have to go to the dictionary too often, but will definitely visit Wikipedia and Google all the time. For instance, now I know what people are talking about when they say, “She looked finer than a Gainsborough,” or “He was heavier than Prinny,” or “His artfully ruffled hair could have rivaled Byron’s” (in the latter I always imagine Hugh Grant in Notting Hill explaining his nick name as “Floppy”). I just realized those trivia bits give away my love for Regencies, boy do I know a lot about England in the early 1800’s!

 hughgrant lordbyron2


Recently I have been reading contemporaries; here are two bits of heretofore unknown trivia I wanted to share:


1. Glenlivet: as in, “Spur consoled himself with a shot of Glenlivet.” Or as in, “Cal’s neighbor always had his favorite on hand, Glenlivet.” (Both quotes are paraphrased)


glenlivet1From the context I could infer that this was some type of liquor, but when it showed up back-to-back in two separate books I knew I had to learn more about it. Both Spur Atwater in Dixie Cash’s My Heart May Be Broken, but My Hair Still Looks Great and Calvin Morrisey from Jennifer Cruise’s Bet Me were Glenlivet drinkers.


Apparently it is whiskey made in Scotland and is the biggest selling malt whiskey in the US. You couldn’t force me to drink the stuff and hubby is a Jack Daniels fan, so we are not of the population making Glenlivit #1 in this country. Maybe we should have some on hand in our house for guests since it is so popular?


2. Queen Anne chair: as in, “Meredith took comfort in her upscale apartment with her Queen Anne chairs.” Or as in, “Isabel lost everything, even her Queen Anne chairs.” (again paraphrasing)


queenannechair1Both of these characters (Meredith Bancroft from one of my all time fav’s Paradise, and Dr. Isabel Favor from SEP’s Breathing Room) were well off, so while I could assume these were nice antique pieces, why are people so into this particular type of chair? Wikipedia was not a big help on this one, but supposedly the Queen Anne style originated just after her reign in 1720ish and it is the most reproduced of all American furniture. The designs are curvy, with scallops and were some of the first furniture to be upholstered. I don’t know if Meredith or Isabel were meant to have original antiques, but I found the Queen Anne chair style for sale at Pottery Barn for $250 each and an original antique one for about $900.


So now I know! And I can drop Glenlivet and Queen Anne style furniture into my everday conversation!