This week I’m looking at money, currency to be precise. My local currency is the Euro and it wouldn’t take a genius to discover its link to the European Union. Other names of currencies, however, have more intriguing histories.

A selection from my coin box

Weight is at the core of many currency names. It’s easy to imagine early merchants using scales to assess the value of goods being traded and it certainly provides the origins of a surprising number of modern currencies.

The Mexican Peso is one example, its name means weight in Spanish. Turkish Lira and the Italian Lira (now replaced with Euro) come from the Latin word libra which means pound (a unit of weight). The pre-Euro Deutschmark in Germany and the Finnish Markka also took their names from units of weight. The British Pound (and the pre-Euro Irish Pound or Punt) came from the Latin word poundus, meaning weight. Other countries whose currency is a Pound include Egypt, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.

The idea of currency as weight is involved in Rubles and Shekels too. Russia and Belarus use the Ruble as currency and it is named after a measure of weight for silver. The Shekel is a noun created from the verb shaqal, meaning to weigh, in ancient Hebrew. The Shekel was the chief silver coin and also a unit of weight.

Currencies aren’t all related to weight. Another way to lend legitimacy to your currency back in history was to link it to your monarchy.

Roman Coin (replica)

The Latin word regalis, meaning royal, is the origin for the Omani and Iranian Rials. Similarly, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen use a currency called the Riyal. Spain used Reals in the past too. The Scandinavian version of this concept is currencies named for the Latin word corona, which means crown. You get Sweden’s Krona, Norway’s Krone, Denmark’s Krone, Iceland’s Króna, the Estonian Kroon (now replaced by the Euro), and the Czech Republic’s Koruna. Readers of an older vintage may recall the crown and half-crown coins in British currency too.

If you’re not pinning your currency to the worth of your monarchy then you may choose to draw attention to valuable metals instead.

The Indian and Pakistani Rupee and the Indonesian Rupiah all come from the Sanskrit word rupya which means “wrought silver” while the Polish Zloty translates as “golden”. The South African Rand is inspired by gold too. Rand is a shortening of the Dutch name for the South African city Witwatersrand which is located in an area rich in gold deposits.

I was surprised to find the word Dollar has its roots in silver rather than gold. The Low German word joachimsthal means Joachim’s Valley where silver was once mined. Coins minted from that silver became joachimsthaler which shortened to thaler and ultimately to Dollar. It’s worth noting that Dollar is a currency for the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Fiji, and New Zealand.

One exception to the weight, metal, and monarchy generalisations comes from Asia. The Chinese character 圓, meaning “round” or “round coin”, is responsible for the name of the Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen, and the Korean Won.

My favourite currency origin is the Pula from Botswana. Pula means rain in Setswana. Rain is scarce in Botswana, — home to much of the Kalahari Desert, and therefore seen as a valuable blessing.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I’m sure I haven’t covered every currency in my exploration – if you know another interesting one, please drop a comment.




This week I’m thinking about talking. My son is on his school’s debating team and they’re in a regional final on Saturday. This is no surprise to anybody who has ever met him. I prefer to express myself in writing but if I had a dollar for every time he opened his mouth, I’d be a rich woman.

Trophies for Talking

I’m driving him nuts by reminding him of the correct pronunciation of words he’s learned from reading so he doesn’t trip up in the debating contest. His English teacher pronounces hyperbole as it’s written but I explained it’s actually high-pear-bow-lee, much to his irritation.

Another word of that type (along with Hermione and anxiety which confused me when I was younger) is grandiloquentpronunciation here and I hope his speeches on Saturday avoid both hyperbole and grandiloquence.

Grandiloquent is a style of language use which is complicated in order to attract admiration and attention.

Grandiloquent entered English in the 16th century and is a word created from both Latin and English roots. Eloquence is the ability to speak fluidly, convincingly, and with grace and can apply in written text as well as the spoken word. Grandiloquus means grand-speaking in Latin and itself is formed from two other Latin words – grandis meaning grand and loqui meaning speak.

If you don’t mind being accused of grandiloquency (like delinquency, but you throw words rather than bricks) then check out the 40 Grandiloquent Words Starting with G – I’ll have to revisit some of these in future posts.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and grandiloquent wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)


This week’s word is bewilder. Modern usage of the word is for mental confusion. The female shopper was bewildered by the vast choice of shoes available in the store, for example, but its origins are more physical than mental.

Samuel Johnson, that dictionary-compiling hero, defined bewilder as “to lose in pathless places, to confound for want of a plain road”. Anybody who has ever had a trail peter out to nothing when hiking in unknown countryside can empathise with this experience. Yes, a map and a compass (plus the skills to use them) will get you safely home, but there’s a moment of worry nonetheless. Will you have to slog through a bog to reach your starting point? Is it getting dark yet? Is everybody in your group able to handle off-trail hiking?

A sign in the pathless places

Wilderness is increasingly rare in this world. The “pathless places” are fewer than they were in Johnson’s day. I suspect most of the new frontiers are under oceans rather than up hills.

Bewilder comes from another verb, one almost as rare as true wilderness now – wilder. Wilder means “to lose one’s way, as in a wild or unknown place” and it was first used in 1613. I love the idea of saying one morning “I’m going wildering today. I may see you this evening, or possibly not, if I become bewildered.”


Of course both wilder and bewilder come originally from wild, which has German roots and is linked to the word for woodland so perhaps the original wilderness was a trackless forest, truly a disorienting and hard to navigate space, rather than the wide open plains or uplands we think of today in a world which has lost many of its ancient forests. It is hard to imagine my own country covered in trees, but the truth is that 400 years ago we Irish clustered in towns around the coast, connected by sea and rivers, for the simple reason that walking or riding through the woodlands was a sure way to become bewildered.

Not quite a trackless forest

Wildering can be scary but rewarding. Have fun in the pathless places, physical or mental, this week,

@Wordfoolery (a.k.a. Grace)


This week’s word is jettatura (pronunciation here) which is a term for the evil eye or bad luck.

A glass token to avert jettatura

Jettatura entered English in the 1800s with the earliest use found in “The London Magazine”. The word originates in Italian, particularly in the southern regions, and is formed from iettare (to jinx or curse) and -atura.

What is jettaura or the evil eye? Accounts vary, as they often do for occult terms. In one version the person who is cursed with the evil eye will cast bad luck upon anybody they look at. This seems particularly unfair as you’re bound to curse those you love. The advice was to wear horns on your person to avert the curse.

The version I’ve encountered personally in the Greek islands and in Turkey (not a million miles away from southern Italy) is that anybody with blue eyes is deemed to carry the evil eye and may accidentally cause bad luck to those in their vicinity. This can be turned aside by a blue eyeball token (on your person or in your home) or by making the sign of horns with the fingers of your hands.

I have blue eyes and would sometimes find brown-eyed locals discreetly making the horn sign when they encountered me on the street or in marketplaces in the much the same habitual way my mother would make the sign of the cross when an ambulance passed us – partly to bless the efforts of the medical crew in helping the person inside and partly in hope that such trouble would bypass her and her family.

In Turkey particularly the glass eye tokens were everywhere and traders would sometimes slip one into my purchases either as an extra bonus or to ensure my blue-eyed jettatura went away with me rather than resting upon their business.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)



These week’s word, oniochalasia, has been inspired by a prolonged shopping trip last Saturday. My daughter needed an outfit for a special occasion and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of trying on and purchasing her new clothes. I hope I haven’t given her oniochalasia, it’s an expensive habit.

Book store oniochalasia

So what is it? Oniochalasia is the purchasing of objects as a form of mental relaxation, in other words, retail therapy. If you enjoy shopping, and the buzz of a good bargain, you may suffer from this. Alternatively your credit card may suffer from the aftermath.

Sadly I wasn’t able to source a sound file for the pronunciation of this word but one video gave it as “on-chill-a-laze-e-a”. Oniochalasia appears to be a recently invented word coined from Greek sources – onio is the Greek for sell or sale while chalasia is the relaxing of a ring of muscle. Combine the two and you get relaxation because of purchases.

My daughter was definitely relaxed after our trip to the dress shops, unfortunately my tired feet and credit card are still recovering. I can vouch for book-shopping as being my oniochalasia method of choice. I had the pleasure of spending a large stack of book vouchers recently and it had a relaxing effect, until I tried to add them to my already large To Be Read pile and everything fell over.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)



It snowed here last night, a rare enough event on Ireland’s east coast, a scattering of the white stuff lies on the grass outside my house and the paths are icy. The temperature on the walk to school was low enough to convince me to postpone my daily walk until noon when it will hopefully be warmer. Instead I’ve retreated to my hibernacle.

My hibernacle, don’t you have one?

Mine consists of a soft purple blanket nest, a good book, and a large bar of quality chocolate.

My hibernacle

A hibernacle is “a place where an animal hibernates, but it can also mean a winter retreat for humans” according to The Free Dictionary.

Humans and hibernating animals have shared the history of hibernacle from the start. The word arose in New Latin from hibernaculum which means winter quarters or tents for winter. Animals don’t live in tents so clearly the origin is with winter shelter for humans. Soldiers or nomads would need a stronger, more snow-proof, shelter in winter than what’s required in warmer months. Of course here in Ireland you need something waterproof year-round.

By the 1690s hibernacle entered English in the animal biology sense, as a shelter for over-wintering animals. It has retained that sense to modern times but there’s a case for bringing back the human version too. Yes, we can’t hibernate but the appeal of curling up under a blanket with a box-set or good book is strong on snow-days.

If you don’t have a hibernacle, perhaps it’s time to create one?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling in your hibernacle,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)


I found this week’s word, scurryfunge, thanks to the Qi Elves and there’s some debate about it being a real word but after a long look at the arguments on StackExchange, I’ve decided it is probably a word and if not, it should be.

To work then, what does scurryfunge mean? Most agree it describes the frantic dash to tidy up before your guests arrive and it has roots in either Old or Middle English. I have scurryfunged many times in my life. I mean, that’s why we have cupboards, right? To shove stuff into before opening the front door?

Ready to scurryfunge

There is a fun alternate meaning too. It was used in the 1800s as meaning “to scour for marine curiosities”. As someone who loves coastal oddities, wordy and physical, I’ve scurryfunged that way too.

Scurry is a well-known verb to indicate rushing, particularly of the mouse variety. Funge is a bit trickier to track down but the best guesses relate to changing something, in this case from being messy to being superficially tidy and ordered.

I should also note scurrifunge is an acceptable alternate spelling and apparently scurryfunge is still a dialect word in use in the Newfoundland region – can anybody confirm that, please? Sadly in mainstream English scurryfunge has fallen out of use and yet, the act it describes hasn’t, so I think it’s due a revival.

Until next time happy reading, writing, wordfooling, and scurryfunging,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)