"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 20 November 2011


I know the word tottie as a slang expression for a good looking teenage girl,
especially one that is a tease or dressed to look older than she is.

However, when I came across 'totties' in a Thomas Hardy book it was used to mean 'feet' according to the book note on the expression 'me totties be cold'. Perhaps it was a dialect term for feet in the South but the note brought from the deep recesses of my mind a vague remembrance that totties referred to toes here in the North. Any comments on this use of the term would be welcome.


As a noun, nonce means for the time being, temporarily, the present, or immediate, occasion or purpose (usually used in the phrase "for the nonce"). A slightly archaic term.

As an adjective it is used of a word or expression used on one occasion: "a nonce usage". I wasn't sure I fully understood this meaning until I read the following in the Wikipedia:- A nonce word is a word used only "for the nonce"—to meet a need that is not expected to recur. Quark, for example, was formerly a nonce word in English, appearing only in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Murray Gell-Mann then adopted it to name a new class of subatomic particle. The use of the term nonce word in this way was apparently the work of James Murray, the influential editor of Oxford English Dictionary.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Eidetic (pronounced eye-det-ik) is an adjective meaning of, pertaining to, or constituting visual imagery vividly experienced and readily reproducible with great accuracy and in great detail. Relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible.

The word can also be used as a noun for a person who is able to to form or recall eidetic images.

I remember that at school we envied my friend George who could read pages of a history book and recall them almost word for word - even knowning where on the page any particular fact lay.

I'm not sure if it has an antonymn but it's the opposite of what my brother, GB, experiences - he has difficulty visualising things!

Friday, 18 November 2011


A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, a

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


I like visit my fellow bloglings on Alphabet Wednesday. Apart from anything else there are a couple who often introduce me to new words. One of those this week was Jo in Australia who gave me Reckling.

A reckling is the smallest or weakest of the litter. There are many similar words, especially used among the farming communities of different areas of the country and the world. One of the most popular is runt but reckling sounds a lot less unattractive. (Yes, I know that was a double negative but ‘a lot more attractive’ didn’t sound quite right).

My Dad used to describe himself as the runt of the litter because he was the last and so much smaller than his siblings. He remained fitter than them all throughout his life and died at the age of 93!

At one time I had a list of such words that I had collected during my wanders among the dialects of the UK but I seem to have lost it. I recall that nubbin and picayune (a word of US origin that somehow found its way to rural England) were among them. Any more would be welcome if you can contribute!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011



A quoz is an absurb thing or person.

It can also be used as an adjective when it is slang for quality, a cockney term for something good. usually accompanied with a hand action of slapping your index finger against the stationery thumb and middle finger.

Sunday, 13 November 2011



Pyknic is an adjective denoting a stocky physique with a rounded body and head, thickset trunk, and a tendency to be fat.

Thanks to this blogling for bringing me this word.

Perhaps being pyknic is caused by going on too many picnics -
Picnic - an excursion or outing in which the participants carry food with them.

Friday, 11 November 2011


A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Thanks to this blogling for leading me to a new word!
Some more examples:-

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.
Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011



A logophile is what anyone who reads this blog is likely to be - a lover of words.

"I am a lifelong logophile if not an out-and-out verbivore. I have a good ear and a good memory for words, it's just a kind of tic or trick, the way some lucky people can play a song by ear after hearing it once or count cards at blackjack or spot four-leaf clovers. Unusual and specialized words tend to lodge in my mind, where they hang around, often for years, until I need them."

(Michael Chabon, The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2007)"

Monday, 7 November 2011


To divagate means to digress; to lose clarity or turn aside especially from the main subject of attention or course of argument in writing or thinking; to stray off from a subject, focus, or course.

The noun is divagation meaning a straying from the way, a diversion.

Saturday, 5 November 2011



Obequitate - an obsolete intransitive verb meaning to ride about [from the Latin obequitatus , past participle of obequitare to ride about]. The noun, obequitation - is also obsolete. A shame, I fancy a bit of obequitation on a sunny day.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


A sluggard is a lazy, indolent person; sxomeone who is perpetually idle or slothful.

"'Tis the voice of the sluggard;
I heard him complain,
You have waked me too soon,
I must slumber again."

Watts - the Divine Songs

Tuesday, 1 November 2011



Brick-nogging is the brickwork filled in betwen the timbers of a wood-framed wall or partition.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Gone for a burton


In informal British English, something or someone who has gone for a Burton is missing, permanently broken, ruined or destroyed.

The original sense was to meet one’s death, a slang term in the RAF in World War Two for pilots who were killed in action. Its first recorded appearance in print was in the New Statesman on 30 August 1941.

It's exact origin is obscure and many different versions have been put forward. The most favoured is that it was a way of avoiding referring to someone having been killed by suggesting they had only slipped out for a Beer. Burton's being one of the biggest Breweries at that time and Burton-on-Trent being the home of a number of other breweries. In addition, someone who downed their plane in the water was 'in the drink'. (There is also a hint of rhyming slang in there - Burton-on-Trent - went.)

Allegedly there was a series of advertisements for beer in the inter-war years which featured a group of people with one obviously missing, such as a football team of ten players. The tagline suggested the missing person had just popped out for a beer. The slogan was then taken up by RAF pilots for one of their number missing in action as a typical example of wartime sick humour. Whether these adverts ever existed is questionable.

It was quite a common expression in 'my day’ but perhaps it has fallen into disuse becauwe my daughter didn't recognise it when I used it recently. It’s a sad sign when expressions one is still using become ‘archaic’!

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Weasand is another word for the throat; the oesophagus (the throat in general); the gullet; the organ in vertebrates which consists of a muscular tube through which food passes from the pharynx to the stomach.  The word weasand has been in use since before 1000 AD.

Friday, 28 October 2011



Bantling is an obsolete word for an infant or young child. I think it has a lovely sound and that it's a shame it has fallen into disuse.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


A rarely used term nowadays, hymeneals is a noun meaning wedding; the social event at which the ceremony of marriage is performed. It was a commonly used term in Victorian times. In the singular - hymeneal - it was more frequently used to refer to a wedding song or poem.

The hymen is the membraneous tissue that partly covers the entrance to the vagina of a virgin. The word comes from the Greek for membrane and Hymen was the Greek God of marriage.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Inaniloquent means tending to speak profusely; loquacious; garrulous; given to talking inanely; pertaining to idle talk.

I suspect there is a direct correlation between the consumption of alcohol and the increase in inaniloquence!

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I have been reading a lot of Victorian literature of late and quite often have come across the term extinguisher meaning a piece of street furniture found outside the front doorways of the rich and middle classes.

The extinguisher was for use by link men. These were men who carried blazing torches to escort people along the streets. After a party there would be a number of link men waiting at the door for their 'owner'. Once they arrived at their destination they would extinguish their torch on the extinguisher to save it for their next task.

I have looked all over the place in Liverpool but cannot find anthing that looks as though it could be an extinguisher. Were they mobile - bins full of sand or something of that sort? If not I wonder what happened to them all.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Swart - an obsolete adjective meaning dark-skinned; naturally having skin of a dark colour. It could also be used to mean gloomy or malignant.

It was the forerunner of the modern word swarthy - of a dark color, complexion, or cast.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Caitif (fem. caitive) is an obsolete word for a prisoner or captive. It was also used to mean a prison as well as the person it contained.

It was especially commonly used in poetry.


Drollery [droh-luh-ree] is a noun meaning something whimsically amusing or funny;
an oddly amusing story or jest; the action or behavior of a droll, waggish person;

One of the things for which I am noted is my quiet drollery.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


Plash is a noun meaning a gentle splash or a pool or puddle.

It is also a verb {transitive (i.e. used with an object), and intransitive (i.e. used without object)}. As a verb to plash means to splash gently.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Credence table

A credence table or credence-table was originally a type of small table used for storing food before serving; generally a semi-circular table with a hinged top. Oak and walnut were popular woods for credence tables.

In their earliest days they were where the food-taster would check for poison because after he had done his tasting the food was always within sight of the diners.

Nowadays credence table is more commonly used to refer to the table(s) at the front of the sanctuary upon which communion ware, offering plates, or other worship service items are placed; the table or ledge on which the bread, wine, etc., are placed before being consecrated in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Captious is an adjective meaning marked by an (often ill-natured) inclination to stress faults and raise objections; calculated to confuse, entrap, or entangle in argument.

In the divorce court she complained that her husband was constantly captious.
I'm sensitive to captious comments on my blogs.

The adverb is captiously and the noun captiousness.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Inexpressibles - During the Victorian era it was not considered polite for a lady to describe gentlemen as wearing breeches so they were called inexpressibles. Although the word was occasionally used for women's underwear it was far more frequently used for men's outer legwear - breeches or trousers.

By contrast the word more likely to be used nowadays - unmentionables - is far more usually appled to ladies' underwear.

After this, there was a good deal of dodging about, and hitching up of the inexpressibles in the absence of braces, and then the short sailor (who was the moral character evidently, for he always had the best of it) made a violent demonstration and closed with the tall sailor, who, after a few unavailing struggles, went down, and expired in great torture as the short sailor put his foot upon his breast, and bored a hole in him through and through.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Dickens, Charles

I had barely the time, as he made for the cabin door, to grab him by the seat of his inexpressibles.
Falk - A Reminiscence by Conrad, Joseph

A French dictionary defines inexpressibles as follows - Mot anglais dit par euphémisme pour culotte, pantalon, et employé quelquefois en ce sens en français par plaisanterie (An English word spoken as a euphemism for pants or trousers and sometimes used jokingly in this sense in French.)

Friday, 16 September 2011


Apothecary (pronounced /əˈpɒθɨkɛəri/) is a historical name for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients — a role now served by a pharmacist (or a chemist or dispensing chemist). To my delight a chemist shop in Inverary had this sign...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Bowdlerise -    [bohd-luh-rahyz] –verb (used with object) meaning to expurgate (a written work) by removing or modifying passages considered vulgar or objectionable.

Origin: 1830–40; after Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), the English editor of an expurgated edition of Shakespeare.

To read more about bowdlerising see today's posting on Rambles from my Chair

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Charm of Starlings


The collective noun for Starlings is a charm. I could think of no less appropriate term for a flock of raucous, squabbling unattractive birds. However upon reading Richard Jeffries' 'Wildlife in a Southern County' all is revealed:-
On approaching it this apparent cloud is found to consist of thousands of starlings, the noise of whose calling to each other is indescribable - the country folk call it a 'charm', meaning a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each interfering with the other. The vastness of these flocks is hardly credible until seen; in winter the bare trees on which they alight become suddenly quite black.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


A mumpsimus is an incorrigible, dogmatic old pedant. Bit like me really....

Monday, 22 August 2011


An uzzle-pye was a medieval extravaganza rather than food. Uzzle-pyes were baked with temporary contents which were then removed to be replaced by tethered birds which would settle down in the dark. When the pie was opened the birds began to sing... Sometimes they'd not be tethered and would fly free the moment the crust was broken; often putting out the candles and causing general chaos, to the delight of the host.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


To fribble means to act in a foolish or frivolous manner; to trifle.

A fribbler sounds like a candidate for counselling but it was actually an eighteenth century term for a man who expressed profound infatuation for a woman but was unwilling to commit himself to her...... (Perhaps he did need counselling, after all.)

Thursday, 18 August 2011


A piggesnye was an unlikely term of endearment for one's sweetheart, originated by Chaucer who is also credited with inspiring the sending of love notes on St Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Farctate means to be bloated or full following a large meal. It comes from the Latin farcire to stuff.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Scandaroon - a large variety of fancy pigeon having a long thin body and an elongated neck and head [from Scandaroon the former name of Ishenderon or Iskanderun a seaport in Turkey]; also an old name for a carrier pigeon and a swindler.

Financier Nathan Rothschild learned of the success at Waterloo in 1815 by scandaroon (carrier pigeon) and falsely hinted that the battle - and England's future - was lost thereby sending stocks tumbling. He bought lots of the artificially deflated slocks and then made a killing when the news of success came through and their price went back up. Strangely, although scandaroon came to mean a swindler it was nothing to do with that episode but because of the sordid reputation of Iskanderun - the Turkish seaport.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


Antediluvian means of or belonging to the time before the biblical Flood or ridiculously old-fashioned.

I shall avoid any obvious ecxamples or making reference to anyone in particular and simply admit that I have some antediluvian ideas.

Friday, 12 August 2011


I always thought necessary was an adjective -and only an adjective. As such it means being essential, indispensable, or requisite.

I thought the noun was necessity but it turns out that necessary is also a noun - something necessary or requisite; a necessity.

Some people have problems spelling necessary. I pointed out the other day that I membered it by saying "It is necessary to have one collar and two studs". It was pointed out to me that the modern generation wouldn't know anything about collar studs - good point!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


GB commented that a quotation I read out to him was very droll. Now there's a word you don't hear often, I thought.

Droll - amusing in an odd way; whimsically humorous; waggish; dryly humorous.

Its first recorded use is said to be from around 1615–25 and its origin from the Middle French drolle -a pleasant rascal; or Middle Dutch drol - a fat little man.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


To disambiguate means to remove the ambiguity from; make unambiguous: In order to disambiguate the sentence “She lectured on the famous passenger ship,” you'll have to write either “lectured on board” or “lectured about.”

(Thanks to Dictionary.com for the example.)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


I am always at my bestv in the matutinal hours.

Matutinal is an adjective meaning pertaining to or occurring in the morning; early in the day. It comes from the Latin matutinalis which meant early or beloning to the morning. Matut was a Goddess of the Dawn.

Matutemia or matutemea is mrning sickness or morning vomiting during pregnancy.

Monday, 27 June 2011


I guess most people are aware that a goose is a big fluffy, feathery thing that either floats around lakes or sits in gravy at Christmas. Technically - A large waterbird (esp. the genera Anser and Branta), with a long neck, short legs, webbed feet, and a short broad bill. Generally geese are larger than ducks and have longer necks and shorter bills.

Goose can be used specifically to mean the female of the bird whose male is called a gander.

But how many of its other meanings are you aware of?

A simpleton.

Anything that energizes, strengthens, or the like: to give the economy a badly needed goose.

A tailor's smoothing iron with a curved handle.

An obsolete board game played with dice and counters in which a player whose cast falls in a square containing the picture of a goose is allowed to advance double the number of his or her throw.

Goose are also a Belgian electro rock band. Bet you didn't know that one!

To goose (slang) - to poke someone between the buttocks.

To goose - to prod or urge to action or an emotional reaction.

To goose - to strengthen or improve (often followed by up ): Let's goose up the stew with some wine.

To goose - to increase; raise (often followed by up ): to goose up government loans in weak industries.

To goose - to give a spurt of fuel to (a motor) to increase speed.

Goose - an affectionate term for a close member of the opposite sex (or a younger member of one's own) - often meaning that they were silly but in a pleasant way.


To cook someone's goose - to ruin someone's hopes, plans, chances, etc.: His goose was cooked when they found the stolen gems in his pocket.

All his geese are swans - he constantly exaggerates the importance of a person or thing.

A wild goose chase - an unsuccessful hunt for something.

Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs - to sacrifice future benefits for the sake of momentary present needs.

Goose step - originally (1806) was a military drill to teach balance; "to stand on each leg alternately and swing the other back and forth" (which, presumably, reminded someone of a goose's way of walking); in reference to "marching without bending the knees" (as in Nazi military reviews) it apparently is first recorded 1916.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander - What is suitable for a woman is suitable for a man or, more broadly, what is good enough for one person is good enough for the other.


Saturday, 25 June 2011


A guerdon (pronounced GURdn) is a present, reward for a service or an accolade. The word can also be used as a verb - "He guerdoned her a watch for her exam results".

It's a nasty word to come across in a crossword!


Friday, 24 June 2011



Postprandial means after eating a meal while preprandial is before a meal.

This term is used in many contexts. In an upper class Victorian household a postprandial glass of port or brandy and cigar was enjoyed by the gentlemen while the ladies had a postprandial coffee.

Nowadays it is more oftent to be found in relation to blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels, which are normally measured 2 hours after and before eating in a postprandial glucose test.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Long one hundred

In times gone by a long hundred or long one hundred was a phrase used tomean 120.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


A thesmothete was originally one of the six junior archons at Athens. Archon is a Greek word that means "ruler" or "lord", frequently used as the title of a specific public office. The word thesmothete has now come to mean someone who lays down the law, a lawgiver or a legislator.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Slow and aloft

The expression 'slow and aloft' appears in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson - "Some's turned the chest out slow and aloft."

Slow, in this context, means bottom so this old expression was the equivalent of our modern 'top to bottom' - meaning throughout.

Monday, 20 June 2011


The term factoid is sometimes used to mean a trivial fact but its correct meaning is "an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact" (Oxford English Dictionary ).

A factoid, according to Wikipedia, is a questionable or spurious—unverified, incorrect, or fabricated—statement presented as a fact, but with no veracity. The word can also be used to describe a particularly insignificant or novel fact, in the absence of much relevant context.

Factoid was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer described a factoid as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper", and created the word by combining the word fact and the ending -oid to mean "similar but not the same". The Washington Times described Mailer's new word as referring to "something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact". CNN's Headline News incorporated factoids into its half-hour newscast in the early 1990s under the direction of Jon Petrovich.

Factoids may give rise to, or arise from, common misconceptions and urban legends.

Sunday, 19 June 2011



A pergola (pronounced per-guh-ler) is an arbor formed of horizontal trelliswork supported on columns or posts, over which vines or other plants are trained.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


As a noun, a twit is a twerp; someone who is regarded as mildly contemptible or foolish.

As a verb it can mean to tease: harass with persistent criticism or carping.

"All the children kept twitting the twit!"

Friday, 17 June 2011


Crapulent and crapulous both mean excessive indulgence; intemperance. given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating.

"Voltaire was always crapulous."

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


In Victorian times a tucker was a piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of a bodice or as an insert at the front of a low-cut dress.

"She was a walking advertisemnt for lace - collars, frills, tuckers and wristbands."

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


A pelisse (sometimes spelled with one s - pelise) was originally a short fur lined or fur trimmed jacket that was usually worn hanging loose over the left shoulder of hussar light cavalry soldiers, ostensibly to prevent sword cuts. It was fastened there using a lanyard.

During Victorian times the word was used for a fur lined or fur robe or gown; or a woman's silk gown lined or trimmed with fur; an overgarment worn by Victorian children when outside; or an outdoor fitted garment for women, ankle-length, and often with a collar and cuffs at the wrist. In other words it seems almost as if anything you wore could be called a pelisse!

Monday, 13 June 2011


An ennead is a group or set of nine, as GB and I discovered recently having tried to fit 'noctet' into the answer to a crossword clue!

The original Ennead (Greek ἐννεάς, meaning a collection of nine things) was a group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology. The Ennead were worshipped at Heliopolis and consisted of the god Atum, his children Shu and Tefnut, their children Geb and Nut and their children Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys.

Sunday, 12 June 2011



To propitiate means to appease a god, spirit, or person; to make peace with; to atone for sin or wrongdoing; or to conciliate (an offended power).

Saturday, 11 June 2011


To apostrophise is to address an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem to (someone or something); to punctuate (a word) with an apostroph; or to rebuke or reprimand; or to blame. With all those meanings it works hard for its living does apostrophise!.

Friday, 10 June 2011


A tippet is a stole or scarf-like narrow piece of clothing, worn around the arms and above the elbow. They evolved in the fourteenth century from long sleeves and typically had one end hanging down to the knees. In Victorian times the name tippet came to commonly mean a woman's fur shoulder cape with hanging ends; often consisting of the whole fur of a fox or marten.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A cold snap

The expression 'a cold snap' means a spell of cold weather. Since weather and complaints about it being not hot enough are major topics of British conversation this is a well-used phrase!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011



According to the dictionary I'm antiquated! It says the use of 'twixt or betwixt to mean between is outmoded and I quite often use them both. 'Twixt me and thee I'm not sure the dictionary is correct!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Colocynths and coelacanths


The colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis), also known as bitter apple, bitter cucumber, egusi, or vine of Sodom, is a viny plant native to the Mediterranean Basin, North Africa, and Asia, especially Turkey. Its pulp is used to make a purgative. I love the idea of something being called the Vine of Sodom!

Not to be confused with the coelacanth - A large, bony marine fish (Latimeria chalumnae, family Latimeriidae) with a three-lobed tail fin and fleshy pectoral fins, found chiefly around the Comoro Islands. It was known only from fossils until one was found alive in 1938.

Monday, 6 June 2011


Don't you just love it! I couldn't resist doing a second word blog today when I came across this 'word' on an Amazon advert -
"Free (and semi-free) Literary Classics for the Kindle (US & UK) by Marilyn Knapp Litt - Avid Reader (Kindle Edition - 18 Mar 2011)".

I wouldn't bother searching your dictionary - I doubt it's word that's going to catch on.


Pipkin sounds a lovely name for a pet but it weas actually a small earthenware pot. A pipkin is an earthenware cooking pot used for cooking over direct heat from coals or a wood fire. They have a handle and three feet. Late medieval and postmedieval pipkins had a hollow handle in order to insert a stick in it for manipulation.

A Pipkin Fracture is a fracture of femoral head in association with posterior dislocation of hip.

Friday, 13 May 2011


is fear of the number 13.

While triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13, paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia is fear specifically of Friday the 13th.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Tergiversation is the act of turning one's back; abandoning something or someone; betrayal; the act of turning from a clear course of action; equivocation; fickleness.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


Gullish is another out-dated term. It meant foolish, credulous, or simple-minded.

Friday, 11 March 2011


Fain is an old-fashioned term meaning gladly or in a willing manner.

"I would fain do it".

Thursday, 10 March 2011


A succedaneum was something that could be used as a substitute (especially any medicine that may be taken in place of another).

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Kerseymere was a fine woollen twill cloth (usually used for a greatcoat).

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Frouzy is an old alternative spelling of frowsy - negligent of neatness especially in dress and person; habitually dirty and unkempt.

"As usual, the frouzy old woman was sat beside the fire, smoking away on her little black pipe."

Monday, 7 March 2011


Contumacious means wilfully obstinate; stubbornly disobedient;argumentative.

Just about every teenager I've known has had their spells of being contumacious!

Sunday, 6 March 2011


An ebullition is an effusion: an unrestrained expression of emotion; a sudden emotional outburst. It also means the act of boiling.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


A parure is a matched set or suite of three or more pieces of jewelry such as necklace, bracelet and earrings. "She entered the room wearing a fine parure of diamonds that outshone all else there."

Friday, 4 March 2011


When I first came across the wrod wuphuism I thought it was probably just another form of the word euphemism (an inoffensive or indirect expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive or too harsh), especially as it fitted the context. In fact the two are not related at all.

Euphuism means an affected bombastic style of language; high-flown diction; a flowery, affected type of writing. It is so called from "Euphues,or the Anatomy of Wit," (1578) and "Euphues and his England," works of Sir John Lyly's written in that style.

This affected style of conversation and writing was fashionable for some time in the court of Queen Elizabeth and the main character in Lyly's works is a fashionable young man named Euphues. The style in which the book is written is full of convoluted sentences, rhetorical questions, alliteration, and references to classical literature with which educated people were assumed to be familiar.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Like yesterday's word this one is a Victorian spelling of something very similar nowadays - traditonary was simply another way of saying traditional.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Stanch is an old spelling of staunch;meaning firm; steadfast; loyal.

Monday, 28 February 2011


Most of my fiction reading is from the mid Nineteenth century at the moment so I'm coming across lots of lovely sounding words which have fallen out of use. Compunctious, for example, has appeared a couple of times. Isn't it a great sounding word! It means pertaining to compunctions, scruples, feelings of guilt or remorse. So, for example, "He ignored her compunctious blush."

Sunday, 27 February 2011


Recondite means abstruse; difficult to penetrate; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


A perron is an out-of-door flight of steps, for example in a garden, leading to a terrace or to an upper story. The term is usually applied to mediaeval or later structures of some architectural pretensions.

Friday, 25 February 2011


Chintz is calico cloth printed with flowers and other devices in different colors; a brightly printed and glazed cotton fabric. The word Calico is derived from the name of the Indian city Calicut (Kozhikkode in native Malayalam) to which it had a manufacturing association.

In recent times the term chintzy has come to mean embarassingly stingy; tastelessly showy; cheap and tacky; or gaudy. I gather chintz has come down in the world since the days when to have your furniture covered in French chintz was the height of fashion!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


Moil is another old-fashioned word - it means to labour; to work hard; to churn; or be agitated. So I guess if you were turning your butter churn vigorously you could be moiling at moiling the butter!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Propinquity is another way of saying proximity, the quality of nearness; the property of being close together.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Obloquy means a state of disgrace resulting from public abuse; abusive language; defamation; a false accusation of an offense; or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions.

Monday, 21 February 2011


To contemn is an old-fashioned way of saying to look down on with disdain; to treat or regard with contempt.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


To manumit is to free someone from serfdom or slavery. The noun from the verb manumit is manumission which therefore means the act of freeing slaves or serfs, done at the will of the owner.

(Apologies for the lack of posts recently - I've been bust. Hopefully they will get back to being regular again...)

Saturday, 12 February 2011


Teknonymy is the practice of referring to parents by the names of their children. It is used in the Korean language as well as in the Arab world and West Africa. Clifford Geertz found this in Balinese culture as well. I'm not sure I fully understand how it is used in Korean etc but as any parent knows the moment their child starts at nursery the parent loses their own identity and simply becomes X's Mum or X's Dad...

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Boscaresque is one of those made-up words that the occasional poet has apparently used. A combination of picturesque (visually vivid and pleasing) and bosky (covered with bushes) it is supposed to mean a scenic woodland.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Fans of The Simpsons might think that this refers to Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie!

Actually a homerkin is an outdated measure of beer.

Friday, 4 February 2011


I was feeling a bit hebetudinous a few days agoi which is why there were a couple of days without a posting on this blog. Hebetudinous means suffering from mental lethargy or dullness.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


A cockalorum is a menial, yet self-important man; an empty boaster; or a boastful speech. The name is also used for the game of leapfrog.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


I'm pleased to say I have always been known for my lamprophony. Lamprophony is loudness and clarity of enunciation.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Gardyloo was a warning cry from medieval times, used to warn passers-by of waste about to be thrown from a window into the street below.

Monday, 31 January 2011


An aureola (plural aureolae) is a halo, the area of glow surrounding any bright object, the radiance of luminous cloud which, in paintings of sacred personages, surrounds the whole figure.

I would have illustrated this word but I discovered no one I know has a halo!

Friday, 28 January 2011


An ort was a scrap of leftover food; any remainder. The word is no longer in general use.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


An aptronym is a name that suits its owner; a name that fits a person's nature or occupation.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


To mew means to shed, moult or change. It also means to cry like a cat or to utter a high-pitched cry like that of a gull.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Eudaimonia means wellbeing: a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous. A nice place to be.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Eft was an old-fashioned name for a newt.

In olden times it also meant again or afterwards.

As an acronym EFT is short for Emotional Freedom Technique, Electronic Funds Transfer, or Electronic File Transfer.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


A kvetch is a constant complainer The word comes from the Yiddish.

To kvetch is to complain; express complaints, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Misosophy is the hatred of knowledge or wisdom.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Eclectic / Eclecticism

Eclectic means selected by what seems best of various styles or ideas; made up of things from different sources.

Eclecticism is making decisions on the basis of what seems best instead of following some single doctrine or style.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Gymnosophy was the doctrine of a sect of ancient Hindu philosophers who practiced meditation in the nude.

GB posted recently about dancing naked in the rain (or something along those lines) - I wonder if he is a gymnosophist?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


An oven-peel was a pole with a broad flat end for thrusting loaves, pies, etc into a baker's oven and withdrawing them from it. Not knowing any bakers I don't know if the word is still in use.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


A congeries was a term once used for a collection of things merely heaped or piled together.

Monday, 17 January 2011


A sluggard is an idle slothful person.

"'Tis the voice of the sluggard;
I heard him complain,
You have waked me too soon,
I must slumber again."

Watts - the Divine Songs

Sunday, 16 January 2011


A deipnosophist was one of an ancient group of philosophers, who engaged in learned dialogue at meals. The word is now occasionally used for a person skilled at informal, across-the-table small talk.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


I knew that an alb was a long white priet's robe; a white linen liturgical vestment with sleeves worn by priests.

But I didn't know until the other day that an alb is also a flat or gently inclined shelf high in a glaciated mountain valley.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Blood libel

Blood libels are allegations that a person or group engages in human sacrifice, often accompanied by the claim that the blood of victims is used in various rituals and/or acts of cannibalism. Its use is nearly always with regard to sensationalized accusations and high emotions. Throughout history, these claims have been frequently made against Jews living in Europe and even resulted in lynching and persecution of whole Jewish communities.

It has recently been used by our modern Mrs Malaprop (she who coined refudiate last year) Sarah Palin. Pundits say that the reason this phrase has provoked so much anger is because Palin is using the phrase “blood libel” just to refer to verbal criticisms, implying an equivalence between both circumstances. The famous linguist Deborah Tannen has speculated that Palin and her advisors are totally unaware of blood libel’s proper meaning.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


To misqueme is an obsolete verb meaning to displease or offend. I wish it were stil in use. I think "You misqueme me, my dear!" sounds wonderful.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


A phrontistery is an establishment for study and learning (sometimes including modern universities); a thinking place.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Many people will know that sulky means huffish, sullen or moody.

But did you know that a sulky was a form of one-person horse-drawn light carriage in Victorian times or a low two-wheeled cart sometimes used in harness racing.  I have mentioned a few carriages in the past on this blog but I have just come across a great list for anyone who is interested on a site called phrontistery.

Monday, 10 January 2011


Prolix means tediously prolonged speech or writing; tending to speak or write at great length. I suppose I should go on at great length about prolix and make this a suitable posring. However, as I am not normally inclined to wordiness, verbosity and garrulousness I'll finish now...

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Logorrhea is pathologically excessive (and often incoherent) talking.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


A quidnunc is a busybody; someone who attempts to know all that happens, but who is not careful of the facts. The word is now out of fashion - a pity!

Friday, 7 January 2011


Wanweird means having an unhappy fate.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


Tachyphagia is excessively rapid eating; bolting of food.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


A slubberdegullion is a filthy, slobbering person; a sloven; a villain; a fiend; a louse. In other words it isn't ver complementary!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


A mammothrept is a spoiled child (or should it be 'spoilt' child?)

Monday, 3 January 2011


This is something I suffer from a times - Lethologica is a psychological disorder that inhibits an individual's ability to articulate his or her thoughts by temporarily forgetting key words, phrases or names in conversation; the inability to remember the correct word.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


Allegedly - i.e. according to one website but I cannot find it in a dictionary - matronolagnia means being attracted to older women, especially those with children. A strange word and a strange concept!

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Jumentous means smelling strongly of a beast of burden; smelling like horse urine.

What a lovely word to start the new year!!!