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The Vine: March 2, 2012

Submitted by on March 2, 2012 – 11:30 AM37 Comments

I’m hoping crowd-sourcing an answer on this might get better results than my fruitless Googling? I’m after a kids’ or YA book that I would have read back in the early ’80s, most likely. The protagonist is an American boy, and may be an orphan or have been sent to live with an uncle or guardian, but I’m not 100% certain on that. In the scene that I most clearly remember he is reading “The Wind in the Willows” and comes across the word “draught.” He doesn’t understand the word until he plays with it in his mind for a bit and eventually realizes it’s the same as the American-spelled “draft” and that the same word can be used both in the sense of a draughty window and to drink a draught of something and then ALL OF A SUDDEN he loves reading, which he did not love prior to that breakthrough.

I’m hunting for it so I can give that passage to my students in the vague hope of inspiring them to figure out what unfamiliar words in their texts mean instead of just saying “that’s hard!” and quitting. If any Nation readers can point me to the book I’d be thrilled.


The Word “Draught” Just Lost All Meaning


Hey Sars,

I’m trying to remember a YA fantasy series, and while I remember many details, none are particularly helpful when searching The Google. I would have read it in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

A pampered, self-involved prince (whose name begins with K) has to go on a quest with his half-brother (whose name begins with F). K is part god or something — he has sparkly eyes. F (same dad, different mom, eyes don’t sparkle) is a Captain of the Guard sort and spends most of the quest taking care of K: he’s Sam to K’s Frodo.

The first book starts out with F’s troop escorting K’s litter (?) across some sort of sacred space. They’re all supposed to be really quiet, but K thinks their caution is hilarious and laughs out loud. Because K is part god he knows he’s protected from whatever might happen, but F gets really mad that K isn’t taking the danger to everyone else seriously, thus establishing K’s self-involved bona fides before the quest even starts.

Over the course of the quest (something to do with keys or gates?), K grows up. A lot. Also:

* Fairly early on, K encounters a priestess in a pitch-black subterranean cave. I think she scratches him, badly.
* Later in the series, K loses the use of his hand for some quest-related reason.

In the last book, they’ve made it back to their home country. K is pretending to be blind so he can keep his sparkly eyes covered (they’re traveling incognito), and they join a group of traveling players. When the troupe patriarch falls ill in the middle of the pageant, K steps in to play the part of his godly ancestor. Everyone sees his sparkly eyes and realizes that he’s part of the royal race, and he and F leave the group shortly after.

At the end, I’m pretty sure K dies, but in a happy way? There was something about him climbing a giant staircase and seeing his parents and his great uncle and some other people who were already dead on the various steps.

Ring any bells?





  • Charity says:

    So not helpful, but I HAVE the second book. I didn’t get any further in the series because I couldn’t find the next one. (This is before Alibris, Amazon, etc.) Sadly, we recently moved and I have no idea where the book is to go check the title. If I come up with it, I’ll re-post.

  • Charity says:

    Should have waited and let my brain churn a little more! Found it (because I remembered the word Godborn) — Prince of the Godborn by Geraldine Harris.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I’m no help, but I sympathize utterly with the kid in the first letter. I STILL mentally pronounce “draught” to rhyme with “ought”, even though I know it’s pronounced draft.

  • Jess says:

    @Charity — That’s it! Thanks!

  • annabel says:

    @Jen S 1.0– Me too!!!

  • Agnes says:


    And I thought I was done mispronouncing words that I had only read and not heard aloud, though I would have assumed that any time I heard someone say “draft” they meant “draft” and not “draught.”

  • Bo says:

    So now I’m thinking about F Troop.

    And remembering reading (I think in Kidnapped) the word misled and thinking all the way until college that it was pronounced “MY-zld.”

  • Joel says:

    Bo, I totally did the ‘myzld’ thing, too. I understood the meaning perfectly well, but myzld just SOUNDS like a word that means tricked or deceived. ‘I was thoroughly myzld by him!’

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Me three on “mize-ld.” It sounds more like what the word means!

  • Vaughns says:

    Completely unreasonable mental pronunciation of “misled” here: “mis-aisled”. I think the mental contortions were as follows: “mis” for the negation aspect, “ed” for the past tense…and then “aisle” because clearly something had to go between those two pieces other than the letter L. (Not that I explicitly thought this out, but if I had to deduce the leaps, that’s how I think it went.)

  • Cyd says:

    “Dis-heveled.” And of course, “gaze-bo.”

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Heh, never had the misled problem, but I also still can’t pronounce “debris” properly. I always say “der-biss” rather then “deh-bree.” My brain just won’t do it properly.

    Stupid English language! Constantly misaisling me!

  • Krissarissa says:

    Mine is ‘lapel.’
    “It should rhyme with staple,” decided my 8-year-old brain. And so it still does today, more than two decades later.

  • Georgia says:

    Krissarissa — my boyfriend does the “lapel rhymes with staple” thing, too! He has also (unintentionally) created one of my favorite mash-up words of all time: frentic, which is a combination of frantic and frenetic.

  • auburntiger says:

    For others interested in the second book- Amazon has the first three out in Kindle version. The third came out last September and seems like it includes the fourth shorter one?

  • Nelly says:

    chimaera – chim eh ra. Like it’s spelled!

    In high school I had to give a presentation to art class where I spent the whole time talking about the fuckard of the building. Facade? Not even the teacher corrected me. It was years until I heard the correct pronunciation.

  • Emma says:

    Cha-whose (Chaos)

    And I *still* have trouble convincing myself that ‘taut’ is a word and not a mis-spelling of ‘taunt’, love to know how I picked that one up.

  • James says:

    Comedian Linda Hill had a few of these that she did/does in her act. The best is her grandmother talking about how the view of the mountains is “Picture-Squee” instead of picturesque.

  • Lisa says:


    When I was younger, I pronounced it kuh-hockey, and damn it, it should be! That sounds much more exotic than kacky.

  • FelisD says:

    Add me to that group! I was an avid reader from the age of two and a voracious crossword fan from the age of 10. I grew up in a household where English wasn’t the first language too, so that doubled the number of words I learned but never knew how to pronounce.

    Like “grotesque” was always “gros-TEK” in my head.
    Or “personable” –> “per SAWN ibel”
    “maniacal” –> “maniac-kul”
    “hyperbole” –> “hyper bowl”
    etc etc etc…

    I’ll still finding out words that I’ve always pronounced wrong, and I’m in my mid-30’s.

  • MizShrew says:

    As a kid, there was one of those quaint little antique shops on the road going into the main part of town. I thought the sign out front was pronounced “Ant-i-cues.” Took awhile to figure out “An-teaks” instead.

  • patricia says:

    Oh, God, for me it was “macabre.” Or mac-a-bre (like it’s spelled!) as a young freshman in an honors lit class in college. And I even remember one of my classmates trying to correct me and I blew right on past him. Remains one of my most embarrassing moments.

    In related news, somehow I have managed to fail to see that the word “detritus” has that second t in it. For my entire life. And therefore I’ve been mispronouncing it my entire life. Crazy.

  • Erin says:

    I always want to pronounce “biopic” and “bye-opp-ikk” rather than “bye-oh-pik.” I think my way sounds much more dramatic. *sigh*

  • Jessica Tait says:

    It took me about a thousand years to realize “segue” was segway, and not segyoo.

  • Kate says:

    At the mall I was always confused by Lingerie department… constantly called it the “ling-airy” department.

    Also,How I Met Your Mother, has a great subplot one episode where Ted pronounces chameleon “cham-ah-lee-on” which I’m pretty sure is how I used to pronounce it when I was younger.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Jessica, I still have to not say “seeg.”

  • Smash says:

    I have three of these that I didn’t figure out until my mid-twenties. I still struggle not to say “for-tay” instead of “fort” for forte…it just sounds wrong as only one syllable. In my head, “dour” rhymes with sour, not tour. And for years I rhymed “banal” with anal.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Smash, I pronounce “dour” like “Dewar’s.” So…I take it that’s wrong. But…I’m-a still do it.

  • Anne-Cara says:

    Wait, “dour” doesn’t rhyme with sour? …good to know.

  • ysabet says:

    @Erin, wait, it’s not “bye-opp-ik”? Bummer. Because “bye-oh-pic” just sounds ridiculous.

    @Smash, I am positive that I have heard “forte” pronounced with 2 syllables. By more than one person, I mean. Huh. Off to the dictionary.

  • Smash says:

    @Sars, “Dewar’s” is correct (or very close) for dour, from what I can tell…but being southern, that’s also how I pronounce “tour.” In any case, it definitely doesn’t rhyme with hour/sour, which is what I thought for about a decade after I learned the word.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Anne-Cara, I was just saying that! Since when, dour? I’ve always heard it pronounced like “sour”! Same thing with forte!

    …what books was this thread about, again?

  • Dorine says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. . . “dour” isn’t like “sour?” Mind blown.

    And I also have trouble with “detritus,” only, for me, the problem is that in my head, it’s always been DEH-trih-tus (short “i” sound, emphasis on first syllable) even though I know technically it is a long “i”, with accent on second syllable. Have really tough time making my brain do it right.

  • Leah in SoCal says:

    Mine is clerestory. I always read it as cler-ES-tory, until I was corrected in an architecture history course. For which I was a TA. Stupid old English.

  • Anne-Cara says:

    Re: “forte”, I think it’s “fortay” when talking about the musical term, but “fort” when you’re using it to mean someone’s strong point.

  • mrs f says:

    I will never, ever forget Joe Fowler in sophomore year English class, reading aloud while we all followed along (yes, reading aloud – must have been a slow day in the lesson plan) … and coming to “phlegm” and making a desperate attempt that came out as “puh-fleg-um”.

    Twenty-two years ago and I still can’t stop giggling.

  • HKS says:

    Add me to the list of people who just had their minds blown. Dour does not rhyme with sour?? Are you sure?

    And what’s this thing about forte? It’s for-tay, right? It has to be.

    This post has me reeling.

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