Building Blocks

On the illustrated architectural words beginning with letter B in the 1979 Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.


Balcony, baldachin, baptistry, belfry, buttress… All words that are illustrated in the 1979 Merriam Webster. Flipping through, you’d think architecture starts with the letter b.



Is there something more fundamental about buildings and their features, than about other areas of human activity? Or are stony frills easier to draw? What makes ball-flower a better subject of illustration than ballerina, ball bearing, or ball fern?


Alongside ball-flowers, there are bead and reel, boss, bolection and belt course.



Also battlements and bartizans…



…that are supported by buttresses…



…and surrounded by blockhouses,



…and attacked with battering rams.



Buildings of peace may have basements lower down…



...and bay windows looking out…



…and bargeboards on top.



I started this review of illustrated b-words with a picture of a bicycle, so let me end it with the breast wheel.

After all, as Anne Carson says, Perfection is round.


Author: A Quiver of Quotes

Jousts with words, jaunts through all genres. In favour of hendiadys, synaesthesia, and the transferred epithet. Books, books, books. Writing. Author of

4 thoughts on “Building Blocks”

  1. I remember the really old dictionary at home when I was young. I used to read it for hours. And the illustrations were often works of art. The only one I can still find is Webster’s Collegiate edn 7. and it has a dearth of illustrations. A 1910 Britannica was the best. ‘A’ – ‘B’ was about three inches thick and I could always find old pressed flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I relate. I used the Merriam Webster I’ve featured like an encyclopaedia. I’d often do research for a school assignment by flicking through relevant entries. The illustrations were such a boon.

      Also, we pressed all sorts of things between its pages and underneath its general bulk: flowers, old photos, crumpled papers, warped watercolour drawings, money that had gotten wet, small items that were glued together and needed to be held in place overnight… I’ve stood on it to reach things high up. It’s been used as a paperweight and doorstop.

      Hmm, I haven’t thought about this in a while, but I’m certain the Webster has seen some creative applications beyond the ones I’ve named.

      Liked by 1 person

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