What’s a carapace?

Word count: 293 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

If you build your vocabulary, you’ll not only benefit your reading, you’ll also become more precise in your writing. Here is my word of the week, carapace.

When I started reading the novel The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff last month, I was enthralled by the book. It was interesting, original and had some bits of very fine writing.

My enthusiasm had cooled a little by the time I finished it, though. For me, the engaging story was slightly marred by an ending that was far too “neat and tidy” — almost like a present with a bow wrapped around it. (I prefer books that leave me wondering, intrigued or surprised.) That said, I notice that the novel has already given me a sentence of the week and, now, two words of the week. Here is the second:

When I was small and easily wounded, books were my carapace

I knew, vaguely, that the word meant a shell (or exoskeleton) covering the body of an animal and that, by extension, it implied a safe, protected place. My husband has a degree in zoology so I feel obliged to share that animals with carapaces include invertebrates (spineless creatures) such as crustaceans (shellfish)  and arachnids (spiders), and vertebrates such as turtles and tortoises.

Etymologically, origins of the word date back to the 18th century, from the French carapace “tortoise shell” which in turn came from the Porgtuguese carapaça,. Earlier origins are uncertain but the word may have come from the Latin, capa, meaning cape.

Me? I mainly love the elegant and melodious sound of the word. I also appreciate the way this sentence presents reading as something strong and invincible.

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