WTF is an Archveult?

One of the peculiar distinctions of Jack Vance’s writing is that he vomits obscure words onto the page as if he’d just eaten a dictionary that severely disagreed with him. Sometimes he seems to be parodying his characters – but other times he happily does it for himself.

To be clear: I’ve never seen him mis-use or abuse a word. When you know what all the words mean, it’s a joy to read (although he uses very few words – preferring to use the exact correct – single – word … than to use 10 more commonly-known words to describe the same thing)

Many of them I know – although I know that most people don’t. But at least as many I *don’t* know – although I do recognise them as genuine English words.

And then, occasionally, you meet an Archveult. And then it gets interesting.

JustF***ingGoogleIt: Google: Archveult

The only dictionary hit I could find was an evil bit of SEO that claimed – in the lies it told Google – that it held a definition for the word, but actually just provided a page that said: “I think you mistyped XXXX instead”.

Next step: commercial, offline, paper dictionaries. Real ones, Shakespearean ones, etc.

In the meantime, my best guess – and this is rather funny if true – is that it’s a deliberate portmanteau of “Archmagician” and “La Reyne le Veult” (the Royal Assent). Because the only story I’ve found it in so far (where the word is used repeatedly) is about an (almost) all-powerful woman attempting to conquer the universe by turning all men into women.

(and read the story before you get too excited by that)

Filed in “game design” because … well.

3 thoughts on “WTF is an Archveult?

  1. James Wallis

    Simon Rogers, who published the Dying Earth RPG and who sits one desk over from me these days, says that it’s a creature that sits at the end of the universe and acts as a foil to the arch-magicians.

  2. Ildefonse

    They’re kinda explained in “Morrein” as antagonists for the wizard(s). They appear to be blue scaly peeps from the planet “Jangk” who use magic. They have a disdain for humans who they refer to as “land-ape[s].” It’s hard to tell from the story if the word designates their race or their profession (like their own wizard hierarchy). I like the ambiguity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *