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Hello and Happy May Day,

I’ve an extra fondness for May as it’s my birthday month and I wish this first of May had less rain hereabouts, but I’ve enjoyed learning about Irish May Day traditions this morning on twitter. Apparently the day is celebrated with bonfires. I don’t fancy my chances of lighting the fire pit in today’s driving rain. Maidens would go out and wash their faces in stream junctions to avoid sun-burn. I’d try, but sun-burn isn’t looking too scary right now. Finally, wildflowers were gathered and placed on doorsteps to avert evil spirits. Now that I can do.

Rainbow wildflowers on a doorstep

This week’s word is bumptious. I came across it in an interview with the author Deborah Moggach who used it to mean being intolerant in relationships. I hadn’t met it before and scurried to my dictionary. It told me that a bumptious person is unpleasantly confident, arrogant, and conceited. The example given was of a bumptious young man but I’m sure this can apply to all genders and ages.

Bumptious doesn’t have ancient roots. It first appeared in English around 1800 and is believed to be a wordplay on the words bump and fractious (quarrelsome). Bump is older though, possibly from Scandinavian origins. It joined English in the late 1500s with the meaning of a blow, or the sound of a blow. One variation was bumpsy which was slang for drunk and certainly provides an image of a bumptious drunk staggering around, bumping into things.

Until next time enjoy the May Day traditions and avoid being a bumptious bumpsy,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I won my April CampNaNoWriMo challenge with 50 hours of editing.

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is champion. If you’ve ever read or watched the “Game of Thrones” series by GRR Martin you’ll be familiar with nobles in trouble invoking the right to Trial By Combat and that’s where the champion enters the story.

In medieval times a king could only fight their peer, another king. Unless they met on the battlefield this was an unlikely event as the monarchs had to be protected at all costs. Instead the king would nominate a champion to meet any challenge on his behalf.

My Champion is Ready for Combat

 

Champion entered English during the 1200s but there are earlier mentions and given the prevalence of French as the language of nobility at the time it is unsurprising to find champion’s roots in French soil, with a light dusting of compost from Latin.

In Old French a champion was a combatant in single combat on the champ (field) and came from the Latin word campus which means field of combat and makes me wonder what transpires on university campuses.

Related words to champion are the French words for countryside (campagne) and mushrooms (champignon) which make sense in relation to fields, but the one I like is scamp – one who flees the field.

The British monarchy retains the concept of a Royal Champion since 1066A.D. This noble, whose family was given lands as a reward for the work, had to ride up and down before coronations asking if anybody objected. This tradition persists but without the horse these days. The current Royal Champion is also a chartered accountant.

The idea of a champion being a superior sporting star dates from the 1700s.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. My CampNaNoWriMo 2018 project is coming along well. I’m editing my middle grade adventure book “Red Sails” and enjoying the company of other dedicated writers in the “Editors Unite!” camp cabin.

 

Hello,

This week’s word is xylophile and you may not find it in your average dictionary, but it is certainly a real word and with Greek roots too.

Driftwood

A xylophile is someone who loves wood, just as a cartophile loves maps and presumably a xylocartophile would love wooden maps or perhaps maps of woodlands? The prefix xylo- is used in compound words relating to wood and comes from the Greek word xulon which means wood.

woodland path

I came across xylophile while dallying on the backwaters of the internet but I like it and as there’s a lack of words starting with the letter X in English (have a look in your dictionary, it’s pathetic) I think we all need to get behind this one.

Plus I must confess to being a xylophile (and a cartophile but that’s a post for another day). It’s not entirely clear if a xylophile prefers wood in timber or woodland shape but I love both. There’s something glorious about following a winding path through a forest and there’s a real tactile joy to holding crafted wooden objects or slowly whittling a creation from a fallen bough.

wood stacks

So the next time you’re struggling to use the letter X, consider xylophile rather than xylophone (literally – wood sound)

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling in the woods,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

beautiful carpentry showing various different woods

 

 

Hello,

This week I’m taking a look at a word that isn’t in the dictionary, but should be. If you’re lucky enough to be an aunt or uncle you’ll know how much fun it is to have younger family members without the burden of parental responsibility. I mean, who doesn’t like being the “cool aunty”?

Niblings at play

I’m delighted to have two nephews and four nieces who I’ve watched from babyhood to young adulthood but they do present one problem – a lack of a collective noun like siblings, parents, or children. However there is a good candidate – nibling. This word, first used in the 1951 by Samuel Martin, is the niece & nephew version of sibling and it makes perfect sense. So much so I was sure I’d find it in Webster or the OED, but I was wrong.

In 2004 a group of ten year old school children in Somerset, England began a campaign to raise nibling’s profile but it looks like they haven’t met with success, yet. It has been suggested to Webster in 2014 and maybe if we all start using it, and spreading it around, nibling can still make it.

If you’d like to help you can use these links to suggest nibling to Oxford English Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, and Urban Dictionary. In fact, now I know this is possible I am tempted to suggest a plethora of words. Are there any words you would add if you could?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfoolery,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Jargogle

Hello,

This week’s word is jargogle and you won’t find it in your dictionary as it’s an obsolete English word, but I think it needs to make a comeback.

A jargogle of yarn

I came across jargogle in a fun article by Heather Carreiro about obsolete English words. Jargogle qualifies easily for Wordfoolery as it’s fun to say aloud. Jargogle is a verb meaning to jumble or confuse and it dates to the 1690s.

Do we have other words for the same concept? Yes, we do, but honestly are any of them as much fun as jargogle? I also can’t help thinking that jargogle must relate to the confusion which falls upon a thinker after “having a few jars” – i.e. drinking a few pints of beer. I mean we use beer-googles to describe how beautiful people appear when viewed through the bottom of an empty beer glass, so why not jargogle in the same vein?

The West Berkshire Brewery used to produce a Jargogle Stout but nobody has recorded if it jargogled the drinkers.

The origin of jargogle is lost in time, or possibly lost in the pub, although some sources suggest a connection to the word jargon. Jargon itself comes to English from Old French and relates to chattering, idle talk, gibberish, and thieves’ Latin. The idea of a special cant for the society of thieves is intriguing, but I’m putting that one aside for another day in case it jargogles my mind.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Hello,

This week I’m exploring boor, bore, and neighbour with thanks to “Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis” by Graeme Donald for inspiration.

Boor entered English in the early 1300s and meant a countryman or peasant farmer. It came from the Old French word bovier (herdsman) which evolved from Latin bovis (cow or ox) which also gives us bovine. These roots entangled with Old English gebur (farmer or peasant but unrelated to boor) and later in the 1500s with the Middle Dutch word boer (fellow dweller) which I look at below.

Hello,

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.