Thanks to recommendations from John Cowan and Brett in this thread, I’ve started Brian W. Aldiss’s Cryptozoic! (which turns out to have been waiting on my shelves to be read for almost fifty years, a new record); it occurred to me to wonder whether the title was a real word—I thought I’d seen it, but couldn’t remember what it meant—so I checked the OED, and it turns out there are two such words, Cryptozoic adj.1 and n (Geol.) “Designating the eon before the beginning of the Cambrian period (about 542 million years ago), equivalent to the Precambrian period; of or relating to this eon, which is characterized by a lack of obvious fossils (as contrasted with the Phanerozoic eon)” and cryptozoic adj.2 (Ecol.) “Designating animals that live in concealed habitats where they remain hidden from view, as in crevices or caves; of or relating to such animals.” That seemed annoying at first, but then I realized there would be few contexts in which the homonymy would cause confusion.

Incidentally, I learn from Wikipedia that the original U.K. title of the book was An Age. I guess that didn’t sound zippy enough for the U.S. market.


  1. Are you quite sure you bought it when it first came out, rather than later and second-hand?

  2. Being a less-old codger than certain others, I didn’t read it until like 1973 when the library got it in Danish. I still remember trying to explain the plot to a classmate (7th grade or so)…

  3. Have you tried his Frankenstein Unbound?
    It’s also ‘timey-wimey’, with nicely playing with a certain work of Mary Shelley. 🙂 (And an HT to her hubby in the title.)

  4. ….[thinks] must work on poorf raeding silks…
    It should be without that first ‘with’.

  5. Are you quite sure you bought it when it first came out, rather than later and second-hand?

    Of course not, I”m not quite sure of anything any more. But if I’d bought it later I almost certainly would have written my name and the month/year of purchase on the flyleaf, a habit I got into after college (and gave up only when I started recording all my purchases in LibraryThing), so odds are in favor of its being an ancient (downright prehistoric) acquisition.

  6. Incidentally, Aldiss won me over on about the third page when he quoted this tiny Pound poem.

  7. I’ve encountered both the recognized meanings of “cryptozoic” in the wild, but I nonetheless think of the name of the novel as a completely made up word. Maybe there’s something in the text that suggests that Aldiss was not familiar with (or at least not thinking of) those other meanings when I came up with the title, but I don’t remember anything specific. I have actually said to myself a number of times over the years that I ought to reread Crytozoic!, but I have not. I was so disgusted by Moreau’s Other Island that I haven’t read anything Aldiss wrote in over a decade.

  8. Part of the book is actually set in the Cryptozoic, so there’s no doubt that Aldiss didn’t make up the word.

  9. Yeah, the heroes flee back to the Cryptozoic because there are too many damn tourists in the Jurassic.

  10. I’m not quite sure of anything any more

    “I wish I were as sure of anything as Macaulay is of everything.” —variously attributed

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