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Friggle

Hello & Happy New Year,

Today’s word is friggle and it has nothing to do with resolutions or a “New Year – New You”. You’re safe here.

Friggle is an English dialect word for fussing over trifles. I assume this means unimportant things rather than layered desserts. Friggle is not a dialect word I’d ever heard and I’ve been unable to identify which area of Britain is home to friggling. Do any of you know?

Its origins are lost but may include connections to fiddling, wiggling, or fumbling and there are definite links to the idea of finagling something. As somebody who likes the details to be right, I think there may be a link to niggle, that feeling at the back of your mind that some tiny thing has been overlooked.

Some of the words on this blog defy my efforts to illustrate them with images but I found inspiration this week with my daughter who likes all the small elements of her lego creations to be perfect. She spent an hour cleaning the cafe with a toothbrush yesterday. She’s definitely a friggler.

The waitress friggled all her cafe items

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Hello,

This is a bonus post, please forgive me for the lack of unusual words. I’ll be back on Monday with my English oddments.

As you might guess, I read compulsively across many genres, fiction, and non. I’ve taken a look back at my reading during 2018 (with thanks to my Goodreads account) and here are thirteen of my favourite books of the year. They’re not all recent releases, as books often wait in my Towering To Be Read Pile for a while and because I’m still working my way through the 501 Books to Read Before You Die List. If you got a book voucher for Christmas I’d recommend any of these books. If you order through the links provided below a tiny fee is paid towards supporting this blog.

If you’re not a reader or prefer posts about unusual words, don’t worry normal service will resume tomorrow.

Thank you.

They’re listed in random order. I can’t rank books, I love them too much.

 

The Complete Peanuts, Vol 5, 1959-1960 – Charles M. Schulz

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Comic strips, including the introduction of Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, and Snoopy’s impressions of a fierce mountain lion. Hardback series.

 

The Diary of a BooksellerThe Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Funny, sarcastic, and touching. A true account of a year in the life of the owner of a small second-hand bookshop in Scotland.

 

Bryant & May - Wild Chamber: (Bryant & May Book 15)Wild Chamber – Christopher Fowler

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

If you love London, or history, or humour and you haven’t read any Bryant & May detective stories yet – you are in for a treat. Frequently provides unusual words for this blog. I read four others this year and they were all excellent. Series.

 

Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

A children’s book (I borrowed from my daughter) but easily one of the best detective books I read this year. Agatha Christie, for kids, in a boarding school in the 1930s. Series.

 

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle Book 1)Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Fantasy about a girl training to be a magical assassin to avenge her family. If you thought Snape was bad, check out the potions teacher here who poisons the entire class before their first class, and really doesn’t care how many of them survive. Witty, clever, brutal. Brilliant.

 

1848406363On This Day – Vol 2 – Myles Dungan

Amazon.co.uk only

Collection of pieces, mostly about Irish history, first broadcast on radio. Dungan has a great tone and although I knew some of the stories already, he tells them well.

 

 

0008150109The Things I Should Have Told You – Carmel Harrington

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

I love chick-lit, rom-coms, and women’s fiction. In this story about a family reconnecting on a road-trip across Europe in a camper van, Harrington proves she can do it, and do it well.

 

 

0141439939The Diary of Samuel Pepys – Samuel Pepys

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

One from my 501 list – Pepys lived through plague, the restoration of Charles II, and the Great Fire of London.

 

 

1101988665The Masked City – Genevieve Cogman

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

A magical library connected to all libraries on all worlds across space and time. Just add librarians who are nearly immortal and can work magic with words to fight dragons and faeries. Series.

 

 

031620689XThe Silkworm – Robert Galbraith (JR Rowling)

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

The Cormoran Strike detective novels are enjoyable, intelligent, and feature one of the best detective pairs ever. No wizards. Series.

 

 

1455524174Two Kinds of Truth – Michael Connelly

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

The 20th Harry Bosch novel and Connelly is still hitting the high notes. Bosch is my favourite American policeman, even now that he’s retired. Series.

 

 

0440217563Voyager – Diana Gabaldon

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Gabaldon’s historic fiction (with a dash of time-travel & romance) Outlander series (now an excellent TV series) is a regular re-read of mine featuring the best depiction of a married, loving, couple I’ve ever read. Perfectly researched. From Scotland during Bonnie Prince Charlie’s uprising to revolutionary America the story sweeps you along and the characters become family. Her books frequently inspire words for this blog. Series.

How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary – Grace Tierney

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Apple Books / Kobo

Inspired by this blog, a fun journey through the lives of the people who gave their name to the English language. From apgar to zeppelin with stops for casanova, guillotine, sandwich, and cardigan, each one of them lived an extraordinary life. Packed with wordy trivia and perfect for history buffs.

 

Happy reading in 2019,

Grace (@wordfoolery)

 

Tinsel

Hello,

I hope you’re enjoying Christmas Eve. Preparations are well underway here at Wordfoolery HQ and the festive spirit has inspired me to explore the word tinsel today.

Tinsel edged noticeboard, with thanks to my daughter

I was surprised to find that tinsel can be a noun, adjective, and verb. The noun relates to threads, sheets, or strips of metal (or plastic) used to create a sparkling appearance in decorations and fabrics. The version I’m most familiar is the festoon of tinsel, a sparkling feather boa, slung around Christmas trees. Personally I prefer decorative ribbons on our tree, so the annual tinsel explosion happens in my daughter’s room instead.

Tinsel as an adjective describes anything which is like tinsel, or is gaudy. Tinsel as a verb is the act of interweaving or adorning with tinsel. I assume this means if you drape your tree in tinsel you are tinseling when you do it.

Tinsel is a surprisingly old word. Its first usage was as early as 1538. It entered Middle English as tyneseyle which was a cloth interwoven with metallic thread and the word probably came from Anglo-French tencelé which itself came from the verb estenceler – to sparkle.

The king of England at the time was the Tudor monarch Henry VIII. He’d buried three wives by that point and had a fondness for rich fabrics like cloth of gold so we may have him to thank for the fashion for tinsel as courtiers would copy his style.

By the 1650s the idea of tinsel had become associated with things which were showy but ultimately of little worth. Again this fall in tinsel’s reputation may be related to politics as by 1650 England had been rocked by Cromwell and the Roundheads. Charles II sat on the throne but had been forced to curtail some of the more over the top aspects of his court fashions for fear of following his father to the chopping block.

The use of Tinsel Town to describe Hollywood dates to 1972. Although it also describes my daughter’s bedroom at this time of year.

Happy Christmas, and until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Scobberlotcher

Hello,

This week’s word is scobberlotcher, which I came across in “Wild Chamber” by Christopher Fowler. If you haven’t stumbled across his mature, and eccentric, detectives Bryant & May (yes, like the matches company) and you enjoy London history along with wit and peculiar crimes, then check them out. You’re in for a treat.

Bryant, in particular, has a fondness for obscure terms so my copy of the novel is now dotted with notes for this blog. You have been warned.

Library at Russborough House – perfect for scobberlotchering

A scobberlotcher (pronunciation here) is a harmless idle person, so it’s a useful insult for anybody who is unlikely to bother looking it up after you fling it at them. Scobberlotcher dates to the 1600s and its origins are obscure. The lotcher part may come from loiter, to hang around aimlessly. Loiter itself comes from the Dutch verb leuteren, to idle.

I’m far from scobberlotchering this week with last minute Christmas preparations afoot and a plethora of lunches to attend. It’s a shame so many social events are squeezed into December, when spreading them throughout the year might share the joy and ease the purse, but I’ll manage. I hope you find some time to scobberlotcher this week.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Chicanery

Hello,

This week’s word is chicanery (pronunciation here). Chicanery means to achieve your goal via subterfuge. It’s not a word you hear that often now, even though it is certainly something that still happens, with sad regularity.

The word history of chicanery is enshrouded in enough mystery to suggest subterfuge. It entered English in the early 1600s in a legal context. It referred to quibbling and sophistry and came from the similar French word chicanerie and the Middle French verb chicaner (to quibble or to pettifog). How it reached French is a little more debatable. It may be from the Middle Low German schikken (to arrange) or may even be from a golf-like game once played in the Languedoc region of the south of France. Perhaps early French lawyers liked to quibble over points of law as they got in a round before court?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Touch and Go

Hello,

Despite this being my tenth win of the challenge (from 12 attempts), NaNoWriMo 2018 was a tough one. There’s a reason why the official recommendation is to write fiction during NaNo – it’s much quicker. I was working from a long list of nautical words and phrases (and a big stack of reference books) for “Words The Sea Gave Us”, but even with advance research I still found my writing pace significantly slower than in fiction years.

However, I’m proud to say I made it to 58,069 words by the end of the month and 90% of the first draft written. Next year I’m writing fiction.

Here’s a quick snippet from this year’s draft – the origin of the phrase “touch and go”, which is how NaNo felt at times this November!

“If a situation is touch and go you’re in a tricky spot, it could go either way, even a slight mistake could prove disastrous.

If you’re an airplane pilot you might be more familiar with touch and go (or circuit and bumps) as the training exercise where you barely land and then immediately take off for another circuit.

The idea of touch and go with the precarious situation sense arose in the 1800s from the world of sailing ships which might give the seabed, rocks, or other obstacle a glancing blow, but then continue on their course. The stakes are high. The ship could run aground or find a hole in its hull, but if the captain and crew are quick to react disaster can be averted.”

Now with NaNo behind me, I’m plotting the rest of my year and looking forward to 2019 writing goals. Have you any plans for 2019 yet?

My first task will be reminding readers that “How To Get Your Name In the Dictionary” is out now on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kindle, the Apple Bookstore, and Kobo. It’s the perfect gift for anybody in your life who loves crosswords, scrabble, biographies, or history. It’s filled with more than 260 eponyms from around the world – the stories behind fashion icons like the trilby, the people behind recipes like tarte tatin or pavlova, inventions like the ferris wheel and guillotine, and charming villains like Casanova. Buying a copy is a great way to support this blog. Thank you.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Nautical Knots

Hello,

This week’s word is knot, a word I explored and added to “Words the Sea Gave Us” this week in my NaNoWriMo 2018 challenge. I passed the 50,000 words mark today, but I’m still writing as I haven’t finished my draft yet.

Knot-tying is a vital skill for any sailor and the word has various uses afloat. Rigging a sailing ship requires various knots, but knots are also associated with speed at sea. The knot has been the nautical measure of speed since the 1630s thanks to a simple device used in the Age of Sail. A log would be thrown overboard while the ship was under sail, attached to it was a line with knots tied at regular distances (1/120 of a mile between each knot was standard). The ship’s speed was then measured by an hourglass sand timer for a set time (a half minute ,for example). The number of knots payed out on the line during that time, was the speed.

One knot became equivalent to one nautical mile so a ship travelling at the speed of ten knots will cover approximately ten nautical miles in one hour. This is roughly equal to 11.5 miles per hour as a land speed. The use of the log in this process also gave us the concepts of a logbook and logging in.

Knots themselves of course existed on land before they were used at sea but sailors invented many of the new designs for specific tasks such as mooring boats, and quick release knots for loosening sails.

Knot may be one of the words the Vikings gave us. English appears to have acquired knot from knutr in Old Norse via German Knoten, Dutch knot, and finally as cnotta in Old English.

One final knot story is a sailor’s yarn that one day a witch was persuaded by a sailor to sell him some wind. Like Odysseus and the bag of wind the Greek god Aeolos, keeper of the winds, gave him, the sailor was presented with a piece of rope with three knots in it. She warned him to untie the first for a breeze, the second for a steady wind, and the third only as a last resort.

The sailor went to sea, delighted with his gift. He untied the first and a gentle breeze billowed out his sails. His ship moved, but too slowly for his liking so he loosened the second knot and sped away from shore for his destination. After transacting his business there he boarded his ship once more and looked at the final knot. It was getting dark and he wanted to return home quickly. The final knot could be the solution to his problem.

He untied the final knot and unleashed a hurricane that split the sails of his ship and resulted in him and his crew sinking below the angry waves.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Four days to go – 52,192 words and counting!