Word Wednesday.

Miscreant / Concatenation / Onomastic

Miscreant, adjective:

1: Unbelieving, heretical.

2: Depraved, villainous.

²Miscreant, noun:

1: Infidel, Heretic.

2: One who behaves criminally or viciously.

[Origin: Middle English miscreaunt, from Anglo-French mescreant, present participle of mescreire to disbelieve, from mes + creire to believe, from Latin credere.]

(14th Century)

Concatenate, adjective: linked together.

Transitive verb -nated; -nating: to link together in a series or chain.

-Concatenation, noun.

[Origin: Middle English, from Late Latin concatenatus, past participle of concatenare to link together, from Latin con- + catena chain.]

(15th Century)

Onomastic, adjective: of, relating to, or consisting of a name or names.

-onomastically, adverb.

[Origin: Greek onomastikos, from onomazein to name, from onoma name.]


Miscreant & Concatenation:

“It hadn’t surprised him one bit. Joss had always known that objects large and small have secret, vicious lives of their own. He could perhaps make an exception for pieces of fishing tackle that had never taken him on in the living memory of the Brittany fleet; but otherwise the world of things was manifestly focused on making man’s life sheer misery. The merest slip of a hand can give a supposedly inanimate object enough freedom of movement to set off a chain of catastrophes which may peak at any point on the Murphy Scale, from “Damn Nuisance” to “Bloody Tragedy.” Corks provide a simple illustration of the basic pattern, viz. a wine cork dropped from the table never rolls back to nestle at the boot of whoever let it slip. Oh no, its evil mind always elects to reside behind the stove, like a spider looking for inaccessible sanctuary. The errant cork thus plunges its hereditary hunter, Humankind, into a trial of strength. He has to move the stove and the gas connection out of the wall; he bends down to seize the miscreant bung and a pot falls off the hob and scalds his head. But this morning’s case arose from a more complex concatenation. It had begun with the tiniest error in Joss’s calculation of the trajectory required to toss a used coffee filter paper into the trash. It landed just off target; the flip-top lurched sideways then swung back and scattered wet coffee grounds all around the kitchen floor. Thus do Things transform justified resentment of their human slavemasters into outright revolt; thus do they force men, women and children, in brief but acutely significant bursts, to squirm and scamper like dogs.” – Have Mercy On Us All, Fred Vargas.

[I have suffered the morning wet coffee grounds splat. It’s a bad day.]


“The call to lunch took the form of Bertin’s fist hitting a large brass plate hanging over the counter. Bertin banged his gong twice a day, for lunch and for dinner, and the effect of the thunder-roll was to make all the pigeons in the square flap their wings and take off all at once, while the hungry, in a parallel but inverse movement, flocked into the Viking. Bertin’s gesture effectively reminded people that it was time to eat, but it was also an allusion to his own fearful ascendancy, which was supposed to be common knowledge. For Bertin’s mother’s maiden name was Toutin, which made the barman, by onomastic filiation, a direct descendant of Thor.” – Have Mercy On Us All, Fred Vargas.


  1. says

    That was such a weird book -- like drifting in a dreamland of Paris. But she has William Gibson’s trick of making you fill in the implied spaces, so it’s all our own imaginations filling in the details.

    For a fun experiment, watch Le Samourai before reading a Vargas book. The book turns into the clear black and grey Paris of the 1960s -- it’s my Paris.

  2. Nightjar says

    I do use one of those words regularly! Concatenation!

    In a very specific and technical context, though. Concatenation is a method used in phylogeny to obtain phylogenetic trees using data from multiple genes. Analyzing each gene gives you a certain information on phylogenetic relationship, and then you sort of link it all together to get a single tree. So it makes sense that concatenation = linking together. I think I never used or encountered the word outside of that context. But now I have. :)

  3. says

    Marcus, yes, this one was weird even for Vargas, but it’s my favourite, followed by Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands, because Violette Retancourt. One of these days I’ll have a small crew of rats named Hervé, Joss, Damascus, Bertin, Arnaud, Marc, Mathias, and Lucien. (Have you gotten to the Three Evangelist books yet?) Or, if girls, Clementine, Josette, and Ghislaine. Clementine* & Josette from Wash this Blood are among my most fave characters. I’ll check the film out.

    *Same Clementine as in Have Mercy. Josette lives with her, and is a hacker extraordinaire, started when she was 65. :D

    Nightjar, now that’s very cool! I didn’t think of the scientific application of concatenation, but it makes perfect sense.

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