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Hello,

This week’s word is exquisite. I was hiking on Sunday and admiring the new season’s ferns. I love the way they unfurl from the tightest little buds. A stem relaxes into existence and then each leaflet unrolls out from the stem itself. During high summer they’re easy to ignore, providing a green carpet under trees and along stone walls but on a bright spring day their exquisite growth dance is beauty in miniature.

The adjective exquisite entered the English language in the early 1400s from a Latin source and it meant “carefully selected” as it was a direct borrowing of the Latin word exquisitus which meant “careful choice” from the verb exquirere. Exquirere is compounded from ex for out (think exit, for example) and quarere meaning “to seek” (think query, for example).

It’s unclear how but exquisite’s meaning in English mutated with use. By the late 1500s it had changed to mean “something of delightful excellence”. By the 1700s it had refined to mean “something of delightful excellence produced by art rather than nature”. By the early 1800s it had a noun form which was used as another term for a dandy or foppish character.

Hence I shouldn’t describe the delicate tendrils of the new ferns as exquisite. They require no artist to tend them, but I still think they out-shine any sculpture.

Until next time, enjoy the small details in life. Happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

 

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Asgard II at Howth

Hello,

This week’s word is thanks to Terry Breverton’s excellent non-fiction tome “Nautical Curiosities” which I recently finished reading with a fistful of inspirations for my coastal novel series and for this blog. There may be a flood of nautical words on the horizon, you have been warned.

I’ll begin with gollywobbler because it’s such a ridiculous word. The gollywobbler is a “large square staysail hoisted between the masts of schooner in a reaching wind to increase speed”. As a motion-sickness-afflicted landlubber myself I scurried to the dictionary to understand that description. I’ll enlighten you as best I can.

A staysail is a fore and aft sail set on lines that run diagonally downward from a mast. These lines (what sailors call ropes) are called stays, hence the name. Unlike the square-rigged sails on a schooner, staylines are in line with the keel of the boat, i.e. at right angles to the rest of the sails. Thus, presumably, they catch wind from other directions and increase the ship’s speed. A reaching wind comes side-on to the boat and the staysails are perfectly positioned to use a reaching wind. Gollywobblers are still used on sailing boats today and there’s even a series of wines named after them.

The origin of gollywobbler is, sadly, unknown, but I imagine that running aloft to hoist one would have been a wobbly and rather terrifying task on the taller of the tall-ships. The gollywobbler is believed to have given rise to the expression “I have the collywobbles” which means to be afraid.

In other news this week, I’ve finished the major editing on my book about the fascinating people behind eponyms “How to Get Your Name into the Dictionary”. Now begins the the fine edits and work with the proof-reader and cover-designer. I’ll keep you posted on progress. If any of you review books, let me know in the comments or @Wordfoolery on twitter and I’ll send an ARC your way.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Sheffry Sunset

Sheffry Sunset

Hello,

Today is the halfway point in NaNoWriMo 2016 and I’ve reached the halfway point in my eponym history book, “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” despite running away for the weekend.

Regular readers will know that I’m a Scout leader (or adult scouter as we’re known these days). Each year there’s a national training weekend for leaders to improve their hill-walking skills called the Mountain Moot and unfortunately it’s scheduled right in the middle of NaNo. I totally shouldn’t go along, but I do anyway convincing myself that taking off three writing days will return me with renewed writing vim and vigour.

That is not always the case but it does have an advantage. Do a tough enough hike and your leg muscles will prevent you from wandering too far from your writing desk for a few days. I won’t be walking anywhere for a day or two but perhaps the memories of mountain ranges stretching from Killary Harbour to Clare Island will inspire me?

Plus, how could I, as a Tolkien fan, resist a meeting called a moot? I didn’t spot any ents though. They were probably hiding in the clouds that shrouded the summit of Sheffry.

Oh and the teachers’ strike I was lamenting last week has been put on pause pending talks. Clearly I was a wonderful home-school teacher as my eldest danced and sang around the room when he heard he could return to school. Ah well, I’ll just have to stick to the writing then.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Wordcount = 26,153

 

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