What does fulgurating mean?

Word count: 268 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: fulgurating.

I can’t remember where I first heard of Junot Diaz but I read the New Yorker each week so perhaps I encountered his name there. Then I started to see it more and more frequently — like a new word that suddenly seems to start popping up out of nowhere. Junot Diaz this and Junot Diaz that.

I’ve told you previously about how I encountered his book in the “quick reads” section of my local library. I enjoyed his book and found the writing to be tough and muscular. A bit like Hemingway.

That’s why he surprised me when he dished up a word I’d never encountered before, fulgurating. Here’s how he used it:

Your brother. Dead now a year and sometimes you still feel a fulgurating sadness over it. 

Fulgurate is a verb that means to emit light in flashes. It’s derived from the modern noun fulguration, also called electrofulguration. This is a procedure in which lesions are destroyed by the use of high frequency current and is essentially similar to cauterization.

I like the use of it here because to me it captures the weird, pulsing quality of grief. One minute you’re fine, the next minute you’re bowled over by it. I also like the way this medical term underscores the character’s death by cancer. Very apt.

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