"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."

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.