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Posts Tagged ‘definition’

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)

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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)

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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.

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Hello,

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)

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Hello,

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)

 

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Hello,

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)

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Hello,

This week’s words are varmints and vermin. I can’t say the word varmint without imagining a grizzled Wild West prospector, possibly missing a tooth, or two. I was curious, is varmint an uniquely American word for describing both animal pests and rascals of the two-legged variety?

Too friendly a mouse to be vermin

Sadly the pronunciation of varmint (available here) is not provided by that curmudgeonly character and varmint pre-dates the American frontier. It comes from Middle English, was used as early as 1539, and is a variant of vermin with what’s called a “parasitic t”. I don’t relish the notion of letters attaching themselves like leeches to other words, although it would explain the spelling of pneumonia.

Despite its source in Middle English varmint is now listed in both Oxford and Collins dictionaries as being informal North American slang. Its use for animal pests came first. The secondary meaning of a troublesome person arrived in the 1700s.

Rats made of shells in the French Vendee region

Vermin’s use for such trouble-makers has earlier roots. By the 1560s if you referred to the farmer next door as vermin, everybody would have understood. This isn’t surprising as vermin is the older word. The Latin for worm is vermis. This became the collective noun verminum in vulgar Latin and referred to all sorts of pests – insects and possibly reptiles included. Old French seized on it as vermin and referred to difficult creatures such as moths. worms, and mites. By 1300 the Normans had brought it with them to England in Anglo-French. Every language, it seems, requires a term for varmints.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling, hopefully without varmints,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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