An extract from 'The Adventure of the Wordy Companion: An A-Z guide to Sherlockian Phraseology' by Nicko Vaughan
Here are just five of the 'C's referenced in Nicko's Wordy Companion:
Capricious - somebody who is given to sudden changes in mood with no given reason. In The Adventure of Black Peter, it is how Watson describes the changes in behaviour of Holmes from client to client in regards to his attitude to monetary compensation. “So unworldly was he—or so capricious—that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of some humble client...”
Carbine - is a short rifle or musket which was used by cavalry and is long but with a short barrel. In The Sign of Four, Jonathan picks out this detail as he describes the convict guard who treated him badly during his incarceration. “He stood on the bank with his back to me, and his carbine on his shoulder. I looked about for a stone to beat out his brains with, but none could I see.”
Carbonari - meaning “charcoal makers” which was a secret society or revolution active until the 1830s. It was also a place which drew in Italian supporters who were unhappy with the repressive political climate after 1815. In The Adventure of the Red Circle, Gennaro Lucca, is said to have joined such a society, “My poor Gennaro, in his wild and ﬁery days, when all the world seemed against him and his mind was driven half mad by the injustices of life, had joined a Neapolitan society, the Red Circle, which was allied to the old Carbonari.”
Carboy - with a name which derives from the Arabic word for big jug, a carboy is a large glass bottle with a short, narrow neck which is used for brewing but also for holding and storing a variety of substances, including corrosive liquids. In The Sign of Four, a cracked one can be found in the secret room at Pondicherry Lodge and containing leaking creosote which hands Holmes a way to, possibly, trace the criminal. “You can see the outline of the edge of his small foot hereat the side of this evil-smelling mess. The carboy has been cracked, You see, and the stuff has leaked out.”
Catechism – a book of instructions or a series of questions which is, more often, used in reference to Christian summaries of principles which is written in a question and answer form. This is how Reginald Musgrave explains the ritual that each of the men ‘coming of age’ within the family just go through. “He handed me the very paper which I have here, Watson, and this is the strange catechism to which each Musgrave had to submit when he came to man’s estate”
What would you buy in slop-shop? What would you put in your lumber room? And what on earth does the obliquity of the ecliptic actually mean? This A-Z of Sherlockian Phraseology can help you find out. A handy guide to those “wordy words” and references found within the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s books featuring the world’s only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes.
This book gives explanations and definitions of the language and references used in all 60 of the original stories, a companion book, much like a paper Watson, following wherever the complete Holmes goes, dutifully explaining and narrating his meanings to the reader. Whether you’re a lifelong fan of Sherlock Homes, completely new to the books or just somebody who enjoys learning new and interesting words, this book will guide you to some of the interesting language of the time.