First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Web Pages in Archive
Volume 4519
How Carson and Duare Survived Venus
by John "Bridge" Martin

i. ERB's Fun With Words
ii. The Born Writer

ERB's Fun with Words

Edgar Rice Burroughs liked to throw in an unusual word now and then, a practice that has helped many a reader to increase his or her vocabulary.

Here are some of the less-common words that show up in the Venus series:

Individous -- Before taking off in his rocket from earth, Carson had a conversation with his friend, Jimmy Welch. "He was grateful, of course, but still he could not hide his disappointment in not being allowed to accompany me, which was evidenced by an indivious comparison he drew between the ceiling of the Sikorsky and that of the old crate, as he had affectionately dubbed the great torpedo-like rocket that was to bear me out into space in a few hours."

"Indivious" means "to create ill will or resentment, or give offense, hateful; offensively or unfairly discriminating; injurious." Since Jimmy Welch was a good friend of Carson, perhaps "indivious" was too strong of a word to use here. But at least Carson softened the term by saying he said it with affection!

Contretemps -- In the opening paragraph of Pirates of Venus, Chapter 12, ERB uses the word "contretemps"—twice. Carson had just realized that Duare, the janjong (princess) of Vepaja, was the same girl he had tried to romance back in Vepaja. He said: "What a strange contretemps! Its suddenness left me temporarily speechless; the embarrassment of Duare was only too obvious. Yet it was that unusual paradox, a happy contretemps—for me at least."

"Contretemps" is "an inopportune occurrence; an embarrassing mischance: He caused a minor contretemps by knocking over his drink." Or, "An unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things; an inopportune occurrence."

It can also refer to a blunder in fencing, an occurrence with which Carson was somewhat familiar.

Haut ton -- In Chapter 12 of Pirates, Car-son led a successful mutiny to take over the Sofal, not only to escape from being a prisoner, but to use the ship to stage raids on Vepaja's enemies. He said, "We were outlaws, we of the Sofal -- pirates, buccaneers, privateers.... Buccaneer has a devil-may-care ring to it that appeals to my fancy; it has a trifle more haut ton than pirate."

Today, one might have few occasions to come across that French phrase unless one is a reader of Regency romance novels, which, according to, use a lot of "weird language." On the website, Diane Farr writes:

"What is the ton? Or the haut ton? The latter has survived (sort of) to the present day, translated from the French to the English, in our expression "high-toned." the ton is a set of persons who are rich, well-born, and fashionable. In order to be a member of the ton, you must be all three. A duke's daughter who spends her days puttering about in a Sussex garden is not a member of the ton, despite her birth and money. And a wealthy mer-chant can dress the part and act the part, but he will never succeed in crashing the gates."
It sounds as if calling himself a "buccaneer" would not really give Carson much "haut ton."

Filip -- Is this a word or a typographical error? In Chapter 14 of Pirates, with Carson at the mercy of the sea, the first edition book says, "The sea gave me a final filip that rolled me high upon the sands to mingle with the wrack and flotsam that she had discarded."

What is a filip? The dictionary yielded no results. So maybe Carson meant that the sea gave him a flip. There is, however, a word with two L's: fillip. The definition is "to strike with the nail of a finger snapped from the end of the thumb," "to tap or strike smartly," or, as a noun, anything that tends to rouse, excite, or revive; a stimulus. Praise is an excellent fillip for waning ambition."

It could have been that ERB meant "fil-lip" as it would be a figurative use of the term in his context. Either "filip" was an accepted alternate spelling for "fillip," or a spelling error was made, but whether the typographers misspelled "flip" or "fillip," we don't know!

It's interesting to see how other editions word it. In the first Ace paperback, it's exactly as it is in the first edition, but in the more recent Del-Rey paperback, the editors decided ERB must have meant "fillip." I would think the University of Nebraska Bi-son Press editors would set a standard for accuracy. And theirs reads: "flip."

The old Dover Press trade paperback, published in 1963, credits the text to the original Argosy Weekly serial, and avoids the problem completely. Its wording: "The sea finally rolled me high upon the sands...."

Flip? Filip? fillip? Take your pick!

Mal de mer -- shows up in Lost on Venus, Chapter 3, when Carson and Duare were captured by the cannibalistic kloonobar-gan. "they bare their teeth in a grimace and emit a sound that is for all the world like the retching of mal de mer, and there is no laughter in their eyes. It took quite a stretch of my imagination to identify this as laughter."

"Mal de mer" is another French word, and it means "seasickness."

Temerarious -- ERB liked the word "temerarious" so well that he used it three times, adding a "-ness" in The Wizard of Venus. "Temerarious" means reckless or rash, which is certainly a good word to be applied to the behavior of Carson Napier.

Its first appearance is in Carson of Venus. Without the anotar, Carson was near the start of a long boat trip with Zani refugees Zerka and Mantor aboard (Chapter 16).

ERB wrote: "In the evening of the third day, the storm suddenly abated; and, though the seas were still running high, we put out from our little harbor and set our course once more for Sanara. Perhaps it was a foolhardy thing to do, but the enforced delay and my anxiety to reach Sanara and be reunited with Duare had rendered me temerarious."

In Escape on Venus, Chapter 2, as Jantor, the jong of Japal, strode into a dangerous situation, Carson said: "I couldn't help but have a great deal of respect for Jantor. He was doing a very courageous, albeit, a very temerarious, thing. I watched him as he walked toward his enemies. His step was firm, his head high. He was every inch a jong."

In Chapter 1 of Wizard, Carson said: "It seems to me that I always plan intelligently, sometimes over meticulously; and then up jumps the Devil and everything goes haywire. However, in all fairness, I must admit that it is usually my fault and attributable to a definite temerariousness which is charcteristic of me."

Ballochute -- In chapter 2 of Wizard, Carson was describing a new-fangled parachute he had designed which combined the properties of an airborne balloon, which would allow the chutist to remain airborne for awhile. He called it a "ballochute." You won't find this one in a dictionary because the word was one of Carson (or ERB's) invention, and not to be found in standard references.

Fredrik Ekman, writing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Summary Project at, has made it clear that the term "ballochute" is a combination of the words "balloon" and "parachute."

The Born Writer

Edgar Rice Burroughs is always good for some classy, clever, comedic or cutting creative writing, and he delivers during the Venus series.

In addition to those that appear elsewhere in this Edgardemain feature, here are a few other passages that I thought were worthy of singling out:

From Pirates of Venus:
"I knew that I had ample room in which to wander, since science has calculated the diameter of space to be eighty-four mil-lion light years, which, when one reflects that light travels at the rate of one hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second, should satisfy the wanderlust of the most inveterate roamer." Chapter 1

"I had aimed at Mars and was about to hit Venus; unquestionably the all-time cosmic record for poor shots." Chapter 2

On musing about the fact the night noises often multiply themselves in a most disconcerting way: "I have heard coyotes yapping and screaming around my camp on Arizona nights when, but for the actual knowledge that there were but one or two of them, I could have sworn that there were a hundred, had I trusted only to my sense of hearing." Chapter 3

When brought up from the hold of the Sofal, a prisoner, to work on the ship, and marveling at the scenery: "I had not been ordered above for the purpose of satisfying the aesthetic longings of my soul." Chapter 8

Adrift in a storm on an Amtorian ocean: "I was carried on; moments seemed an eternity! Where were the rocks? I almost yearned for them now to end the bitterness of my futile struggle. I thought of my mother and of Duare. I even contemplated, with something akin to philosophic calm, the strangeness of my end. In that other world that I had left forever no creature would ever have knowledge of my fate. Thus spoke the eternal egotism of man, who, even in death, desires an audience." Chapter 14

From Lost on Venus:
Commenting to Duare while attempting to make fire: "It's like golf. Most people never learn to play it, but very few give up trying. I shall probably continue my search for fire until death overtakes me, or Prometheus descends to Venus as he did to earth."

"What is golf and who is Prometheus?" demanded Duare.

"Golf is a mental disorder and Prometheus a fable." Chapter 2

Following the fight of the tharban and the basto: "Neither of these mighty engines of destruction turned upon us; neither moved. Except for a few convulsive shudders they lay still in death. And thus Death saved us from death." Chapter 5

"There were flowers and leaves of colors that have no name, colors such as no earthly eye ever had seen before.

"Such things bear in upon me the strange isolation of our senses. each sense lives in a world of its own, and though it lives a lifetime with its felllow senses, it knows nothing of their world.

"My eyes see a color; but my fingers, my ears, my nose, my palate may never know that color. I cannot even describe it so that any of your senses may perceive it as I perceive it, if it is a new color that you have never seen. Even less well might I describe an odor or a flavor or the feel of some strange substance. Only by comparison might I make you see the landscape that stretched before our eyes, and there is nothing in your world with which I may compare it -- the glowing fog bank overhead, the pale, soft pastels of field and forest and distant misty mountings -- no dense shadows and no high lights -- strange and beautiful and weird -- intriguing, provocative, compelling, always beckoning one on to further investigation, to new adventure." Chapter 6

As Carson and Duare contemplate the best way to get away from a threatening beast: "I think the best course for us to follow is to continue steadily toward the forest without seeming haste. If the thing does not increase its speed, we shall reach the trees ahead of it; if we run for it, the chances are that it will overtake us, for of all created things man seems to be about the slowest." Chapter 6

From Carson of Venus:
While attempting to escape from the woman-dominated tribe of the Houtamis: "Right then I would have given a lot for a rear-sight mirror, for I wanted to see what was going on behind us, but didn't dare look back for fear of suggesting that we were doing something that we shouldn't be -- it was a case of nonchalance or nothing, and not a cigarette of any brand among us." Chapter 3

After escaping and enjoying a good meal: "Once again we were happy and contented. Our recent troubles now seemed very remote, so quickly does the spirit of man rebound from depression and push black despair into the limbo of forgetfulness." Chapter 4

From Escape on Venus
"One of the great anthropologists of my world, who leads expeditions to remote corners of the Earth, and never has any adventures, says that having them is an indication of inefficiency and stupidity." Chapter 2 (The anthropologist in question is not identified in Escape, but a similar statement is found in Wizard, Chapter 1, and is credited there to Roy Chapman Andrews.)

Carson to Kandar, who disparaged the so-called culture of the Myposan fish people: "We have had peoples like that in my own world, led by such men as Genghis Kahn and Attila the Hun, who wrecked the culture and civilization of their times and set the world back many centuries; and I suppose we shall have others."

"And what happened after them?" asked Kandar.

"Civilization struggled slowly from the mire into which they had plunged it, as I suppose it always will struggle back after each such catastrophe; but to what glorious heights it might have attained had they never lived!" chapter 11

Carson, commenting on the fact that his latest captors, the Brokols, don't do any unnecessary gabbing: "I am always amazed, if not always amused, by the burst of feminine gabble which follows the lowering of a theater curtain for an intermission. There can't be that much important conversation in a lifetime." Chapter 24

From The Wizard of Venus
Carson, on entering the forbidden garden in Morgas's castle to search for Vanaja: "Its walks were laid out in a maze-like confusion, and I had gone only a short distance along them when I realized that I might have difficulty in finding my way out again; yet I ventured on, though I had no Ariadne to give me a clew of thread to guide me from the labyrinth. The only goddess upon whom I might rely was Lady Luck." Chapter 7

Ref: ERBzine Poster Mosaic Archive

Click for full-screen images



1. Pirates of Venus
2. Lost on Venus
3. Carson of Venus
4. Escape on Venus
5. The Wizard of Venus 
   (Tales of Three Planets)

ALL ABOUT AMTOR by John Martin
INTRO | 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10


Visit our thousands of other sites at:
All ERB Images© and Tarzan® are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work © 1996-2013/2018 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.