Tag Archives: invented words

A Giant Look at Brobdingnagian


This week’s word is brobdingnagian. A character is described in “Hall of Mirrors” by Christopher Fowler (witty detective fiction country house mystery) as being

“positively brobdingnagian when balanced upon a minuscule wire-framed chair”

and I had a feeling it was a reference to the classic satire Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift but I had to pull out the dictionary to be sure, as I thought the only adjective he’d spawned with his writing was lilliputian for people small in either stature or outlook.

Sure enough brobdingnagian (pronounciation here) describes anything of tremendous, or gigantic, size. Swift described Gulliver’s encounter with the land of Brobdingnag in his classic book. It’s inhabited by humans of massive size and is almost the opposite of Lilliput where the people are tiny relative to his brave shipwreck survivor, Gulliver.

The witch Cailleach Beara at Slieve Gullion Forest Park

What I hadn’t realised was that Swift gave English several other words thanks to his hugely popular book, many of which entered the language shortly after its publication in 1726. He wrote the book while working as dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

You may not use big-endian and little-endian for controversies over nothing significant (or ways of organising digital data), or some of his other lesser known words, but I bet you’ve heard of a yahoo being an uncivilised person.

If you’d like to encounter the giant witch I’ve included above – check out the Giant’s Lair Trail at Slieve Gullion Forest Park. There are many legends about the witch attached to the landscape of the area and the trail is perfect for families, or you can tackle Slieve Gullion mountain if you prefer something more energetic.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)


Vernalagnia – feeling romantic this spring?


Yesterday, the 1st of February, was the first day of spring in Ireland. Unlike most of our near neighbours who declare this on the 1st of March, we like to march to our own drum and celebrate the feast day of St. Brigid (in itself based on earlier fertility and fire goddess stories) and celebrate spring on the same day.



While the muddy ground today is solid with frost and the puddles are iced, I can see signs of the spring around my garden easily – my daughter’s first ever snowdrop is blooming, the bluebells have their leaves up, and the garlic I planted last November has sprung up almost overnight. It will be some time before temperatures rise further and I’ve yet to spot a lamb in the nearby fields, but certainly something fresh is stirring in the air and even if more winter storms lie ahead, I like the idea that if we believe it is spring, then it is spring.

This week’s word is vernalagnia and it means a romantic mood brought on by spring. I came across it on various online sites including this one.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find it in any mainstream dictionaries and I suspect it’s an invented word. Vernal means related to the spring, as in the vernal equinox. Having said that, I rather like it and anybody who takes a springtime walk in the countryside will be well aware of the romantic moods of the wildlife around them. There’s a certain wild urgency to the birdsong for a start.

So until next week, I wish you a romantic spring,


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This week’s word is wiglomeration and you won’t find it in a dictionary, unfortunately.

It’s a word created by Charles Dickens in the speech of Mr Jarndyce in “Bleak House”, one of my favourites of his novels. The novel charts the endless Chancery Court case which over the decades tries to determine whom should inherit from a disputed will. In the end the case is settled but the entire, vast, estate goes to paying the legal bills. The story was inspired by real cases – one of which lasted 117 years – and Dickens, as a former court reporter, had witnessed wiglomeration galore in his time.

If only this didn’t have modern resonance, but it does, of course. More than a hundred years later ligitation is still expensive and wiglomeration continues.

But what exactly is wiglomeration? It is the endless process of the law. The barristers in the English courts, then and now, wear/wore white powdered wigs as part of their uniform and these “wigs” would talk and talk and run up their bills in the process.

So the next time a friend has recourse to the law, tell them to beware of wiglomeration.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


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“Embiggens is a perfectly cromulent word”


This week I’ve two words both created by the popular cartoon “The Simpsons”.

Embiggens – verb meaning to make larger

Cromulent – adjective meaning plausible or legitimate. Now used to indicate the exact opposite. So if you say a word is cromulent, you mean that it’s not cromulent. If you see what I mean?

The dialogue of the episode in question is quoted at Urban Dictionary and will probably make things clearer than I can here. Or you can listen to the word embiggens in context on uTube (there’s sound on this link). Or, and I highly recommend it, check out Cracked’s article about the top phrases and words given to us by the Simpsons. It will improve your Monday, honest.

Next week’s blog about perfectly cromulent words will be posted on Tuesday, rather than on my regular Monday slot, as I’m off on a writing retreat this weekend, returning late on Monday.

Until next week, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


Wordfoolery by Roald Dahl


I was reading “The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me” by Roald Dahl to my children this evening (I’d recommend it for ages 5-8, depending the child, of course) and found a wonderful collection of wordfoolery words in the back. Apparently Mr. Dahl enjoyed inventing words and I present them here for your delectation.

  • Blabbersnitch – a creature that lives at the bottom of the sea
  • Crodscollop – a mouth-watering flavour
  • Buggles – means completely crazy
  • Goggler – an eye
  • Hornswoggler – a very dangerous creature
  • Oompa-loompa – a very small person. A tribe of them work in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory
  • phizz-whizzing – really, really good
  • splatch-winkling – rushing around
  • ringbeller – the BFG’s word for an amazing dream, the opposite of a nightmare
  • svollop – to svollop something is to destroy it
  • time-twiddler – a time-twiddler is immortal
  • vermicicous knid – these beasts are vicious killers who can fool you by changing shape
  • whoopsy splunkers – used to describe something marvellous

I don’t think I can add anything to such a whoopsy splunkers list, except a smile. I truly love invented words.

Happy reading, writing, and wordfooling this week,