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Hello,

This week’s word is hippomonstrosesquippedaliophilia and it is a suggestion from blog-reader, Sheena, thank you!

Beware of the Hippos 🙂

Sadly hippomonstrosesquippedaliophilia isn’t in any of the mainstream dictionaries to which I have access. It appears to be a recently coined word from sesquipedalian (pronunciation here). So what does sesquipedalian mean then? It’s the word to describe long, multi-syllabic words and is, itself, sesquipedalian. The word can also describe someone who delights in using long words where perhaps a shorter one would do. The adjective is sesquipedalian and one of these words is a sesquipedalia, the singular noun.

Where does that get us with the hippos (beserk or otherwise)?

If you are afraid of long words you suffer from a related word, hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, and you might enjoy the Long Word Song on You Tube (plug in headphones first if you’re at work).

Hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia features in some modern dictionaries like Urban Dictionary and Wordnik but without an explanation of its word roots. It’s even a hashtag on Twitter which is brave as it contains 32 of the maximum 140 characters in a tweet. However a bit of word dissection is a fun activity on a Monday so here goes. Hippomonstros means very large. Sesquipedalio comes from the afore-mentioned sesquipedalian adjective to describe very long words and phobia as everybody knows means fear (from the Greek word Phobos who was the son of Ares, the god of war). Hence we get fear of very, very, very large words. It’s fun fake-Latin and hey, how many 32 letter words do you know?

The original word suggestion, hippomonstrosesquippedaliophilia, is a simple twist that adds philia (love) rather than phobia (fear) as a suffix and gives us the love of very, very, very long words. It may not be an official word, but it has 32 letters too and I like it. How about you?

Before I sign off, I’d like to welcome the 400th subscriber to Wordfoolery. I hope you suggest a word for me to explore (via the comments or the Nominate a Word page). I’m proud to announce that Wordfoolery has made it to the finals of the V by Very Irish Blog Awards 2017 in both the Arts & Culture and Books & Literature categories. I’m delighted and am looking forward to attending the awards ceremony.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I dare you to use the #Hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia tag on Twitter!

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Hello,

This week’s word is gizzard, simply because I like the way it sounds. I also have a fondness for words containing the letter z. When I taught myself to type when I was ten, I felt sorry for the letters z and q because they’re so rarely used and relegated to the cold outer corners of the keyboard.

Friendly robin in Connemara National Park

The gizzard is part of a bird’s intestines where food is ground up for further digestion, sometimes with the aid of grit. A similar structure exists in earthworms, fish, molluscs, some insects. There is evidence to suggest that some dinosaur species had gizzards too, as did the friendly robin I met in Connemara last month (see left).

Gizzard dates to the 1400s and entered English from the Latin term gigeria which is the plural for giblets, i.e. cooked chicken entrails, a dish my father always savours but not one I’d try personally. From Latin it wandered to French as gesir, and later guisier, the Old North French word for fowl’s liver. From there it finally slipped into Middle English as giser and gizzard for liver. The gizzard isn’t really a liver, but I can imagine it being an easy mistake when cooking chicken entrails, a slippery business at best.

Given that crocodiles and alligators have gizzards I can’t help wondering about the guzzling gizzard of the greedy lizard – a sentence with a plethora of neglected “z”s to enjoy.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and guzzling with your gizzard,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is groin, or groyne. A groin is a long narrow structure in coastal engineering built out into the water to prevent beach erosion by trapping sand. It stabilises the beach on the updrift side but may cause issues in the other direction. As a result they are often built in groups known as groin fields.

Groins (pronunciation here) aren’t that common on the Irish coastline. There’s a small timber groin field at Malahide in Dublin and I also spotted some at Curracloe Beach in Wexford earlier this summer (see above) although these ones, made from tree trunks taken from the local pine forest, were not perpendicular to the shore, but parallel, to conserve the large dune network.

Even if you haven’t visited Curracloe yourself, you may have seen it on the big screen thanks to the amazing opening minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” and the beach-date scene in “Brooklyn”. The groins weren’t visible in either but those soldiers struggled almost as much as I did to climb the dunes. Mercifully I wasn’t under fire at the time.

Groin joined the English language in the 1500s as a dialect word meaning “snout”. That in turn came from Old French groign and Latin words grunium “pig’s snout” and grunnire a verb meaning “to grunt”. The next time I spy a line of timber posts running out to sea to disrupt erosion I will think of the land as snuffling its way out into the pig trough of waves.

One interesting side note – there’s some debate about the spelling – groin or groyne. Wikipedia and the Oxford English Dictionary think the spelling in the US is groin versus groyne in British English. I’ve never seen groyne in a lifetime of reading British English and even the Encyclopedia Britannica thinks the British spelling is groin. Perhaps groyne is being eroded on this side of the Atlantic?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and Wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

Wordfoolery was on holidays last week and that means one thing – reading. I came across fustilug as an insult in “Closed Casket” by Sophie Hannah. She was writing in the voice of Agatha Christie and continuing the detecting work of the egg-headed Hercule Poirot but she sent me to my dictionary.

A fustilug is an obsolete word for a fat, gross, or frowzy person, especially a woman – according to The Collins Dictionary.

Hannah’s fustilug was male so feel free to insult anybody with it. Chances are they won’t know what you’re talking about, a definite upside of using old-fashioned invective.

Lug is a dialect term in British English for an ear and fusty can mean smelly, so the origin may lie with somebody with smelly ears although the mind boggles at how you could have smelly ears. Grubby, I grant you, but ear wax doesn’t smell, does it?

Wordsmith came to my aid. Fusty is a Middle English term for smelly or mouldy and lug in this case is used in the verb sense of carrying something heavy. They date fustilug’s first documented use to 1607 so I am very tempted to use it in my 1588 story “Ready for the Storm”.

Opening email after my holidays (I relish leaving email at home) I got the lovely news that Wordfoolery has been longlisted by the 2017 V by Very Blog Awards Ireland in the Books & Lit category along 19 others, including TaraSparling, Bleach House Library, and WordHerding. I’m delighted to be in such good company.

 

It inspired me to brush up the blog a little – a new tagline and my publications list has its own page finally. You may also notice a book cover on the sidebar. It’s not my eponym book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary”, sorry. It will be published later this year.

No, it’s my first ever serialised novel. When Channillo asked me to pitch for their subscription reading platform, I suggested “Hamster Stew & Other Stories”. It launched with its free first installment on Wednesday. I’ll be adding new installments of Trish McTaggart’s chaotic family life every Wednesday.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. welcome to our recent subscribers – feel free to suggest a word – all feedback welcome

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Hello,

I bet you know the expression “under the aegis of”. For example “The negotiations for a settlement in the dispute took place under the aegis of the Conflict Resolution Board”. We know it means the discussions were under the protection and guidance of that board.

But what exactly is an aegis (pronunciation here) and how did it enter English?

This is one we can blame on the Greeks, those pesky ancients practically wrote the first English dictionary, but at least we have a very clear idea of what an aegis (also spelled egis) is. It’s a shield, specifically the shield of Zeus or Athena. It’s made of goatskin (not gold or bronze, most surprising) and at its centre is the head of a gorgon.

The word aegis entered English in the late 1600s, via Latin. The aeg part was originally aig or aix, meaning “related to a goat” and the –is suffix tells us it was a type of shield. If you were under the aegis of Zeus or Athena you were in a very safe place indeed.

Now I think I’d prefer a metal shield to one made of goat’s hide but I must admit that the addition of a Gorgon’s head does give you the luxury upgrade. The gorgons were three sisters who Greek legends tell us lived in the west, near the setting sun. They all had snakes instead of hair, which must have made a visit to the hairdressers a real nightmare.

They were named Stheno (the strong), Euryale (the wide leaping), and Medusa (ruler or queen). The only one you’ve heard of will be Medusa. She’s the one whose very look would turn you to stone. I can see how having her head affixed to my shield would give a certain edge in battle.

The next time a dry news report tells you about some event being under the aegis of a person or organisation, remember that if you mess with them they may turn their deadly shield against you. Even Captain America would be jealous of that bit of kit.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (a.k.a. @Wordfoolery)

p.s. If you’re curious my adventures in CampNaNo this July have been productive so far despite external circumstances forcing me to change my project, twice. The DS is still chipping away at his story too, very proud of him.

 

 

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Hello,

Wordfoolery was gallivanting last week but as always I had my ear tuned in for unusual words. Amongst other nautical locations (my DS now blanches if I mention nautical history or maritime festivals) we took the excellent tour of the Dunbrody Famine Ship which is moored in New Ross, Co. Wexford.

The Dunbrody

Having studied the Great Famine (1844-1849) endlessly during school lessons in Ireland, I thought I knew everything about the ships dubbed “coffin ships” that stacked the emigrants high and shipped them from Ireland to Britain, Canada, America and elsewhere in search of survival. I was keen to see the ship however as she was built about 20 years ago by volunteers to be a total replica of the original 1844 Dunbrody, no mean feat when the skills to create tall-ships are increasingly lost to us.

She’s a fine ship, despite the dark history she illustrates. The mortality rate on the voyages was about 30% but it was still better odds than staying in Ireland where the population dropped by 50% in the five years of that famine (there were many other famines in Ireland in the 1800s).

The engaging, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable guide, who happily handled queries on the wider historic context of the famine and ship, decided to involve the younger members of my party in demonstrating life on board. DD got to stir the oatmeal/porridge on the deck’s brazier but DS got the plum job, he was handed a wooden bucket and challenged to handle it. Holding it at arm’s length he guessed it was the ship’s bathroom facilities and mimed tossing it overboard, after being advised to check which way the wind was blowing first.

Bathroom or Scuttlebutt?

I hoped the bucket wasn’t dual purpose, both for fresh and shall we say “used” water? If so it would be a primitive scuttlebutt. Butt is an old word for a barrel or cask, nothing to do with your rear. To scuttle something is to cut a hole in it – for example to hole the hull of a ship in order to sink it. The two together describe a cask or bucket with a lid. The lid had a hole in it so sailors could scoop out water using a drinking cup, but without allowing flies or dirt into the cask.

The scuttlebutt was a place to congregate and exchange news from the 1700s on board ships, hence its meaning as gossip or insider news. It crossed over to landlubber use c. 1950s. The modern equivalent would be water-cooler-gossip and an eponymous version exists in Australia with the furphy (whose story I explore in my book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” – coming later this year).

If you’re visiting the south-east of Ireland and have an interest in history, I can recommend the tour, just be careful of what way the wind is blowing.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (a.k.a. Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

Today’s word is a suggestion from Wordfoolery fan ClĂ­odna. Quomodocunquizing means “making money in any way you can” which is something many of us are familiar with if we want to pay our way in this world. It’s also a term that’s on my mind this week as I embark on a couple of new writing gigs. I’ll let you know when they’re fit to be seen.

Roman Coin (replica)

Quomodocunquizing is so underused as to be almost extinct. It appeared in a Huffington Post article in 2013 and hasn’t rejoined the English language in any significant way since then, perhaps because of its cumbersome pronunciation. I rummaged for an audio file but failed. My best guess is quo-modo-cun-quizing but it doesn’t exactly ripple from the tongue.

Apparently quomodocunquizing appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, but I can’t find it there or in other major dictionaries, so either this is a fun invention by a word geek, or it has finally lapsed from use. This would be a shame for two reasons. One is that its main quoted usage, a ranty essay in 1652 by Thomas Urquhart, is so over the top – “those quomodocunquizing clusterfists and rapacious varlets”. Thomas, I doff my writing hat to your vitriol.

The second is that we all understand the concept and we don’t really have a good word for it. Yes we have “hustling”, although that has con-man implications and yes we’ve “portfolio careers” where a person works on various income streams to curate a profitable and enjoyable career, but there’s nothing like a Latin word to really nail an idea like quomodocunquizing.

Quomodocunque, in case your Latin is as rusty as mine, means “in whatever way”, so quomodocunquizing is a direct steal from Latin into English.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling. I hope your quomodocunquizing is profitable.

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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