Sunday, June 29, 2014


Do  you ever use a word correctly but then discover that you're still slightly wrong about it? Frankly, it happens to me more than I care to admit. Actually, I don't mind admitting it, because that's what this blog thrives on, but really I don't have the hours in a day which it would require.

So I happened to use the word 'adumbration' down in the blog comments recently. I meant it as an intimation of things to come, and it does mean an intimation of things to come. I even knew, thinking about it, that it must come from Latin, as all those other -tion words do. But when I think of adumbration, I hear some heavy reverberations, like thunderclaps, though I suppose thunderclaps are really the opposite of adumbrations, whatever that would be. Echoes?

Anyway, dum-duh-dum-dum. Like that.

As English speakers, we hear the dumb in the word, too. It's hard not to. But dumb or dum or doom for that matter aren't really part of it. The word is really ad-umbration. From  adumbrare: ad--either an intensifier or "toward" and umbrare "to cast in shadow". In other words, foreshadowing.

Unfortunately for those struggling to improve their vocabulary, adumbration doesn't just mean one thing, it means a lot of things. It can be a brief sketch or an outline. It can be shading. It can mean to reveal only partially. It can be the outline of a figure, like the tracing of a silhouette. It can even mean to overshadow. Attach it to anything shadowy, in fact, and chances are you will be right.

I don't know what the movie is, but there is an adumbration here for sure.

Confessions of ignorance always lead to the revelation of more ignorance, of course. That's the way of things. Looking up things about adumbrations led me to the Wordnik website. Along the side are listed many quotations that include the word in question, but the first one genuinely surprised me. You, gentle reader, are not so gullible and maybe even I am not as gullible about these things as I think I am but here's the quote:

"Apparently from the very first episode of "Work of Art," clues to the identity of the eventual winner were baked into the show -- a kind of adumbration that is in fact seeded throughout all reality shows by their canny, all-knowing producers."
                                                             -Emma Allen

The Huffington Post explains it all for you HERE.

Sure, other reality shows, but not The Amazing Race, right? Say it ain't so, Phil.


  1. Much thanks for this and for any vague indications of what is to come. But now, it is your fault I'm having an earworm of "The Little Drummer Boy".

  2. Sorry about that. But it is Christmas in July kind of thng that must be going around. At least, my friend's son requested the Christmas tree lights up for his birthday I hear.

  3. The Big Combo, film noir.

  4. Thank you! I may try to watch that one.