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Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

Hello,

This week’s word is barricade and again it’s one that can be used as a noun or a verb. When I think of barricades I immediately picture a dramatic scene from Les Miserables with rousing singing and waving flags but barricades don’t date to the French Revolution. They’re much older but they do have a French link.

Barrels ready for a barricade

A barricade is an improvised defensive barrier made to stop your enemy’s advance. Films would have us believe that barricades always include a wooden cart and a few chairs but in fact an authentic barricade should include barrels.

Barricade entered English around the 1640s from Middle French which had borrowed the word from Spanish barricada or barricado (in the 1580s) which literally means “made of barrels”. Barrica is Spanish for barrel or cask.

The earliest recorded use of barrels in a barricade dates to that period too. During the 1588 Huguenot riots in Paris large barrels were filled with earth and stones to create obstacles in the streets.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

This week I want to explore and promote gadzookery here on Wordfoolery. To get started I’ll take a look at the annoyance/surprise exclamation “Gadzooks!” which dates back to the 1600s but was used regularly through to the end of the 1800s. Like the use of heck instead of hell, gadzooks is a stand in for another phrase “God’s hooks!”. Gad was often used instead of god. Egad is another example of this.

God’s hooks doesn’t sound too sacrilegious to a modern reader but it’s a reference to the nails used during the crucifixion of Jesus and apparently that was a step too far, back in the day.

words both new and old

After gadzooks fell from regular use the term gadzookery was adopted (around 1955) to refer to the deliberate use of old-fashioned language. If, like me, you enjoy using older words like zwodder, bumptious, and jargogle then you’re indulging in gadzookery.

Ironically gadzookery itself has suffered the fate of falling from regular use, so anybody accusing you of gadzookery is possibly guilty themselves.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and gadzooking,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I got some good news this week, gadzooks! The sequel to my comedy serial novel “Hamster Stew & Other Stories” has been accepted by online reading platform Channillo.com. “Nit Roast & Other Stories” will debut there in early August.

 

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Hello,

This morning I indulged in a little light time-travel. My youngest is attending a camp at Dublin City University this week and I had a few hours to kill so I wandered up to the library and asked if I could use the facilities as an alumni. The lovely librarian sorted me out and buzzed me in with the warm words “welcome back”.

Back in the stacks

The library isn’t even in the same building anymore, but it was a delight to sit in the new space and remember my younger self. I stacked a quiet cubicle with books and settled in. I started research on my next non-fiction book “Words the Sea Gave Us” which I’ll be drafting during NaNoWriMo this November, but I couldn’t help jotting down gems for Wordfoolery too.

Zigzag (also zig-zag, both are used) is the first on my library list. As noted before, I have a fondness for words containing neglected letters in the English alphabet and zigzag has two.

crochet zigzags

What’s a zigzag? It’s a line with sharply alternately right and left turns. They go way back, you’ll find them on the stone carvings at Newgrange (famous Irish stone age burial mound, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids at Giza).

Zigzag entered English in the early 1700s and was used by Jonathon Swift in 1728. The word comes from French and before that from German zickzack where it was applied to describe fortifications. It’s worth noting that Zacke in German meant a tooth or prong which makes sense if you think about the sticky-out-bits (the technical term!) on castellations and fort walls. To perform one of these turns in your course you would zig, or possibly zag so it can be used as a verb too.

Until next time happy reading, writing, zigzagging, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

 

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Hello,

Hinterland Festival

This week I’m exploring the word umbrage, with thanks to John McKenna whose writing workshop I attended last weekend at the Hinterland Festival. The annual festival is held in Kells, Ireland and features over 60 events over four days for readers, writers, and younger visitors. This year I was proud to be chosen as the winner of their inaugural short fiction contest and closed their Lit Crawl event with a reading of my story “The Purple Tree” in the library.

 

 

Anyhow, back to umbrage. John mentioned it was his favourite word at the moment as he’d only recently discovered its meaning related to being in the shadow of trees.

In the shadow of trees

Naturally I had to investigate. The first surprise is that “to take umbrage” dates back to the early 1600s. I always thought that had to be a stiff-upper-lipped Victorian expression, but apparently people have been suspicious of slights against them for much longer.

Umbra, meaning shade or shadow, is a Latin word, with possible Sanskrit roots. From there it edged into Middle French as ombrage (which gives us the currently popular ombré colour effect) and shaded into English by the early 1400s. The excellent Phrase Finder web site confirms that umbrage sometimes referred to the foliage of trees causing shade. Originally taking umbrage meant to sit under shady trees in the 1540s but a hundred years later the meaning had twisted, perhaps because of the association of darkness with negativity.

They also pointed out something which I can’t believe I missed. The distasteful character of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter books is named for two types of darkness – umbrage and dolour which means sorrow and distress.

The idea of shade as a negative thing is still active in modern slang. Throwing shade, or simply shading someone means you’re insulting them.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

I usually keep love words for Valentine’s Day blog posts but romance shouldn’t be confined to a single day, should it?

I couldn’t resist the nugget of anatomical science which tells me that the oblique muscles of the eye used to move your glance sideways in an amorous way are called the amatorial muscles.

Now, before you check that detail I must warn you an online search for amatorial muscles will probably give you results for a different muscle used in amorous ways of a more, shall we say, physical nature. Search at your own peril!

Amatorial comes, of course, from the word amorous. I had an inkling that had Latin roots because I knew l’amour is the French for love and yes, the Latin word for love is amor and it reached English via French. I was hoping for a Roman god or goddess link but nope, it’s just love – both the romantic and the friendly sort. Simple but important.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling. If anybody ‘throws you the eye’, remember what muscle they’re using,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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Hello,

This week I’ve dug out my Sherlock hat and taken on a missing persons case. The person in question is Janey Mac and while rumours of her being a Dublin girl like myself persist, it now appears Janey Mac may have been a man.

Janey Mac is an expression of surprise, originating in Ireland and dating back at least 50 years, probably much longer. Some claim it for the west of the country, others for Dublin, but it’s definitely from Ireland and has spread into other countries along with Irish emigrants. Janey Mac hasn’t made it into the dictionary, yet, but is under consideration.

Charmingly, Janey Mac comes with a rhyme

Janey Mac me shirt is black,
What’ll I do for Sunday?
Go to bed and cover your head,
And don’t get up till Monday.

There are three possible origins for Janey.

The first is she was a Dublin girl, one of a pair of sisters. Given that mac is a common prefix to Irish surnames (MacCarthy, MacCabe, MacAuley etc) thanks to mac meaning “son of” in Irish, you would expect to find a Janey MacCarthy (or other Mac surname) at the bottom of this but I couldn’t find a real surname or time period for her anywhere and why would a girl be so surprising anyhow?

The second is the exclamation is an avoidance of taking God’s name in vain. Instead of yelling “Jesus Christ” when you drop a hammer on your toe, you’d call out Janey Mac instead. This is possible. Some alternatives include jeez and “cheese and rice” and many parents in Ireland would say sugar instead of sh**, but Janey Mac really doesn’t sound like Jesus Christ. I’m not convinced by this.

The third option is intriguing and may be complete hokum but it’s a good story. Every Irish schoolchild has heard tales of Fionn MacCumhaill, the ancient Irish warrior (probably mythological). He’s our version of Hercules – super strong, amazing warrior, constantly having adventures and nearly dying. You could see how his surname could be shortened to Mac, right?

His first name, Fionn, was actually a nickname. It means blonde in Irish. Fair hair in the Irish population (pre-viking times) was pretty rare so it makes sense he’d get that as a nickname, just as those with red hair are now rare and might be called Red.

Fionn’s real first name was Deimne which in certain dialects is pronounced Janey.

When Christianity came to the island the first battle was against the ancient myths and stories of demi-gods. Saint Brigid was created to cover for an Irish goddess, it’s not beyond the bounds of belief to see Fionn MacCumhaill being transformed into Janey Mac and it being used as an exclamation or oath, over time becoming confused with those swearing by Jesus Christ.

The true origins of Janey Mac are unknown but I enjoyed the search for her. I love that a mythical Dublin lass may actually have been a mythical demi-god warrior.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. Thanks to Paddy PJ Callahan who suggested this topic for the blog.

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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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