Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Trice

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

It is impossible to be too vigilant in researching every detail of Poul Anderson's vast vocabulary:

"He could cruise for a long piece of lifespan if need be, seeking the trice which would be his." (p. 126)

I skipped over "...trice...", thinking vaguely that it must be some term in a card game - three winning cards or something of that sort. However, having googled no less than four words for the previous post, I returned to "trice" and found that it was a word that I already knew but had never seen used in quite that way before.

It means an instant or very short period of time, as in phrases like "He came back in a trice." So it has no connection with the number three. But I had only ever seen the phrase "in a trice," not the word "trice" used as a separate noun. This use of the word is particularly appropriate for a time travel story. There may only be a "trice" in which Tom is able to save Feliz's life (see previous posts on "Gibraltar Falls") but Tom can afford to spend a lot of his own personal time going back and forth in time looking for that almost instantaneous opportunity.

It seems that "to trice" is a transitive verb, meaning "to hoist and secure with a rope." Thus, "trice" as a noun might mean "at one tug." As I say, we can learn a lot merely by looking up the meanings of words used by Anderson.

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