Uncommon Words: Part Two (The Last Colony)

Welcome back to another article of “Uncommon Words” featuring exciting words I find in fiction. These articles feature words that I don’t use very often (if ever) along with their definitions and how they are used in the book. I will try to avoid any book spoilers by replacing them with dashes. I am doing this in the hope that I will start using more of these words in my writing. Let’s build our vocabulary together!

This article will feature a few words I found in “The Last Colony” which is book 3 in “The Old Man’s War Trilogy” by John Scalzi. Not as many as I found in the last book, but some good ones in here.


    • rictus. n. fixed grimace or grin.
      • Usage in book: “Hickory’s smile passed from ghastly into rictus territory.”
    • provisional. adj. arranged or existing for the present, possibly to be changed later.
      • Usage in book: “I’m provisionally wrong about the Mennonites,” Jane said, looking back to me.”
    • ostensibly. adv. apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.
      • Usage in book: “This was ostensibly a research trip for me and Jane and selected colonists, to recon our colony site and to learn more about the planet.”
    • perambulate. v. walk or travel through or around (a place or area), esp. for pleasure and in a leisurely way.
      • Usage in book: “Out of the corner of my eye I saw Beata Novik, his camerawoman, do her slow perambulation.
    • wry. adj. using or expressing dry, esp. mocking, humor.
      • Usage in book: “Rybicki grinned wryly, and tossed his sorghum to the ground.”
    • ostentatious. adj. characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice.
      • Usage in book: “No one in town had a floater; they were ostentatious and impractical for a farming community.”
    • ombudsman. n. an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration, esp. that of public authorities.
      • Usage in book. “I was offered the position of village ombudsman, which I took, and was surprised on the first day of work to find Savitri there, telling me that she was going to be my…”
    • apparatchik. n. Derogatory or Humorous. An official in a large organization, typically a political one.
      • Usage in book: “The planet is called Huckleberry, named no doubt by some Twain-loving apparatchik of the Colonial Union.”

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