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Posts Tagged ‘definition’

Hello,

Along with a passion for words, I also enjoy foraging. There’s something satisfying about finding local plants and using them in old recipes. Last weekend, for example, I took a walk to gather elder flowers and bottled up some elder flower cordial. I’m far from expert and take great care to pick sustainably and with careful identification, but with help from a handful of good books on the topic I’ve been expanding my hedgerow harvest from simple blackberrying to blackberry and apple jam, crab apple whiskey, and wild garlic pesto. Pinterest is a good starting place for information, if you’d like to try it yourself.

Beware of nettles

When I was walking back with my elder flowers I passed a large clump of nettles and remembered a strange fact about them from “Foraging” by John Lewis-Stempel – “In Scotland, the natives made cloth from nettles as late as the 18th century”.

Nettle’s word history ties in with the idea of cloth. Nettle entered English from Old English netele which in turn came from Old Saxon netila and related words netele (Middle Dutch), netel (Dutch), Nessel (German), and naedlae (Danish). All of these terms come from the root ned which means “to tie or bind”.

Twisted fibres used to bind are but a short hop to cloth via a loom and it wasn’t just done in Scotland. I recently read Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales (for my ongoing quest to read the entire 501 Books list) and in one of them (The Wild Swans) a princess must knit nettle shirts to save her brothers from an evil queen. She suffers terribly during her task due to nettle stings.

The history of nettle cloth is well documented elsewhere online, if you’re curious, and dates back to 3000 B.C.. Nettle cloth, or ramie, which is like linen was widely used worldwide even during World War II, even next to the skin.

To nettle someone is a more recent verb use of the word. It means to irritate or provoke someone and is from the 1560s. I imagine touching a stinging nettle would provoke you alright.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be nettle stung I do have one piece of advice based on a foraging talk I attended a few years ago. The charming expert began with a demonstration of how to handle nettle stings. He was scathing on the common misconception that dock leaves help. They don’t and I can vouch for that from my own childhood. At best the application of dock (also called burdock) leaves makes you feel a little better as a distraction/attention thing.

Dock – pointless for nettle stings

He introduced us to another plant, smaller leaved than dock, which generally grows on the edges of paths worn through grassland – plantain (plantago major). Apparently it was called whitefoot by native Americans as it grew where the colonists walked. It has strong anti-histamine properties and is well known for this in some countries and totally unknown in others which is a shame. He demonstrated with sheer bravado, holding a fistful of nettles for a minute, showing us his red, welted hand (to groans from his audience), and then rubbing the welts with dampened, crushed plantain leaves. In half a minute the welts and pain were gone.

 

Plantain – try it on nettle stings

I’ve yet to try this myself but I spread the word and both my children have helped stung friends with good effect.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling. Stay away from those nettles, unless you’re making nettle soup.

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

I’m back from a lovely weekend in a yurt in Wicklow with my family and thanks to a combination of antibiotics and anti-histamines (insects love to bite me, but my body doesn’t enjoy the experience) I’m only leaving my zwodder today.

A Yurt with a View

Zwodder, in case you’re unfamiliar with 19th century Somerset dialect words, means a drowsy state of body or mind and I wish it could make a comeback as a commonly used English word. The weather here has been perfect recently – clear blue skies, warm but not too hot, a light breeze. Tradition (but not science) holds such weather is because 120,000 students are sitting state examinations at the moment, the poor things. All I know is it makes for perfect zwoddering conditions.

My zwoddering spot

Zwodder certainly doesn’t appear to have standard English roots due to its spelling. Middle Dutch has swadderen which means to be weary or staggering due to drinking. Anglo-Saxon had swodrian which meant becoming drowsy or falling asleep. Zwodder’s roots may lie in the Land of Nod amongst a haze of Zzzz.

Until next time I wish you a comfortable hammock and time to zwodder,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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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.

 

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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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