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Dictionary Daily: Sluice

sluice – v. – to flow or pour through

Today I continued reading The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy and I seem to have stumbled upon one of McCarthy’s favorite words, circa 1965. Normally McCarthy uses the word and adds the -ing suffix in order to explain the way in which liquids move. It sounds amazing each time I read a sentence in which it appears. One of the examples is here: “Through the weary slide of the wiper on the glass, the water sluicing away, Sylder watched the rain dance in the lights, flash from the black road.” What an asshole. This was his first fucking novel!

But anyway, bitterness and jealousy aside, what a perfect word to use in this context. I don’t know how many people have read this book, but it’s about (among other things) the conflict between new and old, the rising tide of technology and how those who have come before no longer understand the world in which they find themselves. In this context, the word choice  couldn’t be more perfect. The word “sluice” is actually Middle English in origin, so the idea (no matter how unintended) of a nearly archaic word being used to explain the way in which water moves across the windshield of the latest piece of technology, the automobile, is a perfect juxtaposition. I don’t know how deep I should be getting into this, but to go one step further, I could even venture to say that the word choice is also reflective of how old the rain is compared to the automobile. Rain preserves life and renews it. Wow, I’m probably too deep into it now.

Moving backward from theme and all the implications of word choice therein, I’d also just like to talk about the sound of the word. All the “s” sounds throughout the sentence just lend the word the perfect place in which to lie. Being able to find a word with two “s” sounds to fit into that sentence was a great stroke of writing. When I first read that sentence, I thought he made the word up it fit so well. But, as I see, my vocabulary is just ridiculously deficient when compared with writers like McCarthy and Wallace. That’s why we read, though. To see how it’s done, right? Anyway, that’s it for today. I’m freaking tired.

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About rydowney

My name is Ry Downey. I'm sometimes a poet. I exist and sometimes that's really difficult.

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