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Here's a passage from the novel, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy:

They picked their way among the mummied figures. The black skin stretched upon the bones and their faces split and shrunken on their skulls. Like victims of some ghastly envacuuming. Passing them in silence down that silent corridor through the drifting ash where they struggled forever in the road's cold coagulate.

What is "envacuuming"?

In the Polish version of the book, it is translated as "enwakuumowanie" and that's not even a real word.

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It's not even a real word in English either, but most likely you can guess the same meaning from that Polish translation - "suctioning from the inside". It doesn't make a lot of sense - it's largely a creative writer exercising poetic license, in a "one-off" usage. Too Localised for ELU, I think. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 11:36
    
@FumbleFingers No problem, feel free to close the question. There aren't many neologisms in the book, so I thought it was an actual words that I just couldn't find in the dictionaries. –  Marek Grzenkowicz Jul 29 '12 at 14:10
    
It's florid poetic style (using mummied instead of mummified is effectively archiac). So that's one odd usage already (his "coagulate" is another). I don't know if en- is still a productive prefix, but it doesn't feel like it to me - so it's odd to use it with a "newish" context like vacuum cleaners/pumps. I think the language is simply intended to be strange, alien, unsettling, reflecting the scene he's portraying. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 14:45
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@FumbleFingers I’m almost thinking that en‑/em‑ might still be productive. Not in words like embroider, envelop, enchant, engross, or even embark, where I agree it is fossilized. But there are so many OED entries that start with en‑ or em‑ and end with the past participle like ‑ed or ‑en, that I suspect it may still sometimes being used productively: embattled, emmarbled, encysted, enhearten, enslave, entomb. If the word is new in the last century or two, and has an identifiable root after the en‑ or em‑, I think those are probably still somewhat productive. –  tchrist Jul 29 '12 at 16:51
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@FumbleFingers I may be more productive than most in my coinages by analogy with existing forms. Given enshroud, might as well have enrobe to go along with disrobe, and thence perhaps enhelm or engoggle as neologisms, but perhaps not encap or enhat. Hm, maybe also ensweeten as in embitter? Looks like imperil works for endanger, so there may be some Latinate substitution possible with certain words; I suspect those are all present in the originals, though, so impute and dispute aren’t the result of anything perceived as productive in English: we’ve no *pute left. –  tchrist Jul 29 '12 at 17:43

2 Answers 2

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They picked their way among the mummied figures. The black skin stretched upon the bones and their faces split and shrunken on their skulls. Like victims of some ghastly envacuuming.

IMO, McCarthy is employing the prefix en- to conjure up a vision of corpses which have been vacuum-ed from the inside, causing their skin to stretch tautly, and faces to shrink. Ugh!

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In its entry for the prefix en-, NOAD says:

1 forming verbs (added to nouns) : expressing entry into the specified state or location (as in engulf)
2 forming verbs (added to nouns and adjectives) : expressing conversion into the specified state (as in encrust, ennoble).

Given that information, I'd assume that the word meant that the victims were somehow put into a vacuum. (Whether that alludes to a physical vacuum or a metaphorical one, I'd need to see more than the five words you've supplied in your post.)

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They picked their way among the mummied figures. The black skin stretched upon the bones and their faces split and shrunken on their skulls. Like victims of some ghastly envacuuming. Passing them in silence down that silent corridor through the drifting ash where they struggled forever in the road's cold coagulate.. Okay, I shouldn't have just copied that guy's guess at the meaning earlier. I still don't think it's a useful metaphor - how do we know what a person in a vacuum looks like? It's off-topic. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 14:01
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@FumbleFingers, I think it's a vivid word picture meaning that it looked like the people's insides had been sucked out by some sort of a vacuum, leaving behind just a skeleton with skin stretched across it. –  JLG Jul 29 '12 at 15:13
    
@JLG: Okay - I agree! Even after finding and posting the context (which OP has now added to the question), I didn't really read it. Now I have, and yes - it's striking imagery taken in context, and in the spirit of a linguistically-competent (and co-operative!) reader. But interpreting artistic neologisms is still off-topic, imho. –  FumbleFingers Jul 29 '12 at 15:39

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