EPS Review #72 - The Hippopotamus

The Hippopotamus, by Stephen Fry, Random House 1994

I wasn't going to read another Stephen Fry book, but then I found this hardback for a pound. It came complete with an inserted Evening Standard review saying Fry is not as smart as he thinks he is, and criticizing him for using the "sixth-form" words: banausic, gaumy, ataractic, and soterial. I find his verbal play fun to read -- it's just his basically nasty view of humanity that is off-putting. The plot involves a teen-age miracle healer in a country home, and there is indeed a scene with a horse and some vaseline. Surprisingly, the plot turns into one of detection, with a neat and sober ending.

"possessed of vowels like a line of Lalique icicles."

"Have you ever let the honey-suckle live up to its name? Ever drained its honey? When you take the flower and pull the stamen through, a delicate shining drop of nectar swells up at its head. A bead of sweat bulging at the tip of a woman's axillary hair is as beautiful."

No entries for "gaumy" or "soterial" in Merriam Webster! The latter presumably means "saviourlike."

Tom wrote:

Gaumy: Of the nature of a daub or smear; of painting: coarsely executed, dauby. 1881 Leicestersh. Gloss., Gaumy, gummy; sticky. 1888 Athenæum 25 Feb. 250/3 It shows Wilkie designing with admirable vigour, but the execution is vicious and 'gaumy'. 1907 W. DE MORGAN Alice-for-Short xxxii. 331 'What's his work like though, reely?' 'Footy stuff. Gormy colour. No drawin'!' 1919 Old Madhouse 306, I wish she wouldn't trot out her gormy daubs and ask my honest opinion of them.

Soterial: Pertaining to salvation. 1879 H. CROSBY Christian Preacher ii, The soterial pith of the Gospel is simple and soon exhibited.

This slacker is pleased to be free of banausic tribulations...

Ravi wrote: M and her room-mate inherited the great Steven's rooms at Queens' College Cambridge. He was very much a larger than life figure even then. I liked Moab Is My Washpot but have not read much else by him, although I did dip into a book of essays and other journalism once.