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Volume 5362

Monster Glossary
St. John: Monster Men interior
by John Martin
  A Selective Glossary of terms used in ERB's The Monster Men
  (definitions culled from wikipedia and online dictionaries as well as the novel itself)
  Cabalistic -- Relating to or associated with mystical interpretation or esoteric doctrine. After burying "the heavy chest" stolen from Professor Maxon, Ninaka and cohorts "buried the treasure at the foot of a mighty buttress tree, and with his parang made certain cabalistic signs upon the bole whereby he might identify the spot when it was safe to return and disinter his booty." Chapter XIII

  Camphor Crystals -- A waxy, flammable, white or transparrent solid with a strong aromatic odor. It is found in the wood of the camphor laurel, a large evergreen tree found in Asia (particularly in Sumatra, Indonesia and Borneo) and also of the kapur tree, a tall timber tree from the same region. It also occurs in some other related trees in the laurel family, notably Ocotea usambarensis. Dried rosemary leaves, in the mint family, contain up to 20% camphor.  It is used for its scent, as an ingredient in cooking (mainly in India), as an embalming fluid, for medicinal purposes, and in religious ceremonies. "The head hunters had been engaged in collecting camphor crystals when their quick ears caught the noisy passage of the six while yet at a considerable distance, and with ready parangs the savages crept stealthily toward the sound of the advancing party." Chapter XI

  Celestial -- Sing Lee, the Chinese cook for the Arthur Maxon scientific camp, is first referred to as an "oriental" and then several times as a "celestial." Celestial was a term referring to Chinese emigrants to the U.S., Canada and Australia during the 19th Century. The term was widely used in the popular mass media of the day. The term is from Celestial Empire, a traditional name for China. Chapter VI, et al

  Cognomen -  An extra personal name given to an ancient Roman citizen, functioning rather like a nickname and typically passed down from father to son. "Both the name and the idea appealed to Number Thirteen and from that time he adopted Bulan as his rightful cognomen." Chapter IX

  Contumely -- Insolent or insulting language or treatment. After Professor Maxon referred to Number Thirteen as "that horrid, soulless thing,"..."At the very moment that he spoke the object of his contumely was entering the dark mouth of a broad river that flowed from out of the heart of savage Borneo." Chapter IX

  Court of Mystery -- name coined by Von Horn for the part of the compound where Maxon makes his monsters in his secret lab. "For days and nights at a time Virginia never saw him [her father, Professor Maxon], his meals being passed in to him by Sing through a small trap door that had been cut in the partition wall of the 'court of mystery' as von Horn had christened the section of the camp devoted to the professor's experimentations." Chapter II, et al

  Dyak -- The Dayak or Dyak or Dayuh are the native people of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the interior of Borneo, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture, although common distinguishing traits are readily identifiable. ERB described the Dyak pirates in terrifying terms, with tiger teeth sticking out of their faces.

  Effete -- We all are familiar with this word from many of ERB's books, but what does it actually mean? The dictionary says: "(of a person) affected, overrefined, and ineffectual." Chapter XV: "At the sight of the mighty figure reduced to pitiable inefficiency and weakness, despite the knowledge that her protector could no longer protect, the fear of the jungle faded from the heart of the young girl -- she was no more a weak and trembling daughter of an effete civilization."

  Gudgeon -- A socket-like, cylindrical (i.e., female) fitting attached to one component to enable a pivoting or hinging connection to a second component. The second component carries a pintle fitting, the male counterpart to the gudgeon, enabling an interpivoting connection that can be easily separated. Designs that may use gudgeon and pintle connections include hinges, shutters and small boat rudders. "Here he [Von Horn] found that the rudder [of the Ithaca] had been all but unshipped, probably as the vessel was lifted over the reef during the storm, but a single pintle remaining in its gudgeon." Chapter XI

  Gunung Tebor -- a locale in Indonesia. " being Ninaka's intention to dispose of the contents of the chest as quickly as possible through the assistance of a rascally Malay who dwelt at Gunung Tebor, where he carried on a thieving trade with pirates." Chapter XIII

  Incontinently -- In a way that lacks self-restraint, no control (in modern sense, mostly refers to lack of control of bowels or urination)  "For a moment they stood valiantly before his attack, but after two had grappled with him and been hurled headlong to the floor they gave up and rushed incontinently out into the maelstrom of the screaming tempest." Chapter VIII, et al.

  Kris (kriss) -- an asymmetrical dagger with distinctive blade-patterning achieved through alternating laminations of iron and nickelous iron (pamor). While most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia the kris is also indigenous to Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade, although many have straight blades as well. Both the spelling of "kris" and "kriss" are used in The Monster Men.

  Lascar -- A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope. The word (also spelled lashkar, laskar) derives from Persian laškar, meaning military camp or army, and al-askar, the Arabic word for a guard or soldier. The Portuguese adapted this term to lascarim, meaning an Asian militiaman or seaman, especially those from the Indian subcontinent. Lascars served on British ships under "lascar agreements." These agreements allowed shipowners more control than was the case in ordinary articles of agreement. The sailors could be transferred from one ship to another and retained in service for up to three years at one time. The name lascar was also used to refer to Indian servants, typically engaged by British military officers. In Monster Men, ERB uses the term to refer to refer to some of the natives who assisted, as well as attacked, the expedition. "The gravel bottom of the rivulet made fairly good walking, and as Virginia was borne in a litter between two powerful lascars it was not even necessary that she wet her feet in the ascent of the stream to the camp." Chapter II

  Malay   -- Member of an ethnic group of Austronesian peoples predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula, eastern Sumatra, southernmost parts of Thailand, south coast Burma, island of Singapore, coastal Borneo including Brunei, West Kalimantan, and coastal Sarawak and Sabah, and the smaller islands which lie between these locations -- that collectively are known as the Alam Melaya. These locations today are part of the modern nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.  Numerous mentions throughout book; Along with the Dyaks, the chief antagonists of the expedition.

  Mias pappan -- A native name for the orangutan. "As she looked she saw a huge mias pappan cross the stream, bearing in his arms the dead, or unconscious form of a white-skinned girl with golden hair."  This was a Virginia sighting later reported to von Horn by an unidentified native woman. Chapter XII

  Nostrum -- A medicine, especially one that is not considered effective, prepared by an unqualified person. Sing Lee's "first thought when he had made Professor Maxon comfortable upon the couch was to fetch his pet nostrum, for there burned strong within his yellow breast the same powerful yearning to experiment that marks the greatest of the profession to whose mysteries he aspired." Chapter VII

  Ourang outang -- Was apparently a popular spelling of the name of beast more commonly rendered as orangutan today. First used in Monster Men as a hyphenated word and thereafter as two words. This was the spelling in Poe's Murders in Rue Morgue, published in 1841. Chapter X.

  Panglima -- A Malay noble of secondary rank, a petty raja. The word has also been used as the name for a "fun, fast vocabulary game." This is the rank of Ninaka of the Sibnana Dyaks, cohort and rival of Rajah Muda Saffir, chief villain. Chapter X

  Parang -- A collective term for swords, big knives and machetes hailing from all over the Malay archipelago. Used throughout the story. One example: "They had entered a narrow canon when Number Twelve went down beneath a half dozen parangs." Chapter XIV

  Pintle -- See gudgeon, above

  Prahu -- A type of sailing boat originating in Malaysia and Indonesia that may be sailed with either end at the front, typically having a large triangular sail and an outrigger. Used throughout the book.

  Sumpitan -- A kind of blowgun for discharging arrows, - used by the savages of Borneo and adjacent islands.  Definition evident from context: "A shower of poisoned darts blown from half a hundred sumpitans fell about them, and then Muda Saffir called to his warriors to cease using their deadly blow-pipes lest they kill the girl." Chapter XIV

  Tuan Besar -- A European boss in colonial Malaysia, used twice in Chapter XI to refer to Von Horn. The first time it is used in the original editions, it is misspelled as "Taun."

  USS New Mexico-- A battleship (BB-40) in service with the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1946. She was the lead ship of a class of three battleships. New Mexico was extensively modernized between 1931 and 1933 and served in World War II in both the Battle of the Atlantic and the Pacific Theater. After her decommissioning she was scrapped in 1947. New Mexico was the first US Navy ship named for the U.S. state of New Mexico. The second such ship is a Virginian Class submarine (SSN 779) placed in service March 27, 2010. Since the book version of Monster Men came out in 1929, it would have been logical for readers to assume BB-40 was meant. However, the story was first published in All-Story magazine in 1913. So, the name with which ERB christened his ship was fictional, at the time. Five years later, a real USS New Mexico was launched by the Navy.

  ERB identifies his New Mexico as "flagship of the Pacific Fleet," which would usually mean it was a rather large ship with an admiral aboard. The one in his story, however, is identified as a cutter, a much smaller and more maneuverable fighting ship. And that would be smaller, as well, than the battleship which eventually bore that name. Chapter XVII

Glossary Illustrations and Refs added by Bill Hillman
(Click for Wikipedia Definitions)

Maps of the Area ~ Malay People

Hillman Asia Photos

Camphor Laurel Tree

Kapur Tree

Dyak People of Borneo

Lascar Crewmen





USS New Mexico
USS New Mexico

An Exploration of ERB's Imaginative Book:
By John Martin

ERBzine 5360
Monster Men and the Magic Number I 
ERBzine 5361
Monster Men and the Magic Number II
ERBzine 5362
Monster Glossary


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