Word of the Week


Xan`tho*mel"a*nous\, a.(Ethnol.) Of or pertaining to the lighter division of the Melanochroi, or those races having an olive or yellow complexion and black hair.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc. 
Cite This Source

I came across this colorful word while reading Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman (check for my review in the coming days), a refreshingly complex debut novel which chronicles the experience and experiment of a fascist entomologist, Phillip Erskine and his young, short and brutish subject, the boxer of the title, Seth Sinner Roach, in the 1930's. Here is the word, xanthomelanous, in context:
Sinner had driven the car up from London that afternoon. By the fourth or fifth time the boy swerved merrily into the wrong lane or nudged a cyclist into a ditch as he overtook, Erskine was convinced that Sinner was doing it deliberately to frighten him; but although he wasn't sure that either he or the car would ever quite recover from the ordeal, he would not deny that they had made astonishingly good time, arriving quite early in the afternoon to find his mother standing on the lawn in front of the house talking to a xanthomelanous gentleman in a bright yellow suit of a radically asymmetrical cut, seemingly made of some sort of shiny wrapping paper, fastened by just one large steel button halfway down the jacket.
 Beauman, here, is describing the character Amadeo Amadeo, a fascist and futurist; a guest at the Erskine's estate, Claremore, during William Erskine's Fascist Conference of 1935. It's a striking way to introduce the Mediterranean character, from his olive complexion to his garish yellow suit, right down to the singularly conspicuous fastener at his middle.