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20 April 2009


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The English language is ever growing and evolving. Today words are in use which were not heard of a few decades ago. A ' hard drive' was a long journey. A 'mouse' was a small rodent. A 'micro wave' was probably a 'death ray' in a SF novel. So many of the words we use today, that are now common usage, would have confounded our grandparents and great grandparents - and how many parents actually understand what their children are saying, LOL! Many good words have also become virtually extinct owing to their non usage, others have had their meanings changed. 'Cool', 'wicked', 'to chill' are all now used quite differently to the original definitiions.

Then of course there are words which just sound plain weird, but we romance writers would do well to take note of this one, and file it away for future use:

Calenture: meaning a violent fever with delirium, affecting persons in the tropics.

In times gone by, unfortunate sailers afflicted with sunstroke suffered delusions and fantasies and would jump overboard, believing they were leaping into the 'green fields of home'.

*The word comes from Spanish "calentura", a fever or sunstroke,
based on the Latin verb "calere", to be warm...

What has all that got to do with romance? you ask. Well have patience, I'm coming to it.

*The word may well be familiar from two famous eighteenth-century seafaring works: Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Later, a calenture became any kind of raging fever linked to delirium and it also took on a figurative sense of some burning passion, the feverish ardour of a man afflicted with love, or the emotions of a spurned lover:

So there you have it, calenture, 'the feverish ardour of a man afflicted with love.' It could be just the word you're looking for to describe the feelings of the hero in your next novel.

*Thanks to Michael Quinion of WORLD WIDE WORDS
World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org