Baby thrown out with the bath water

In his recently published book Landmarks Robert Macfarlane draws attention to the fact that a few years ago a revised edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published and this book included for the first time the words attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. To make space for these words the following words were deleted from the dictionary as no longer being relevant to a modern-day childhood: acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.


Jottings on words in English and French

As far as I know the English word that can be repeated sequentially the most number of times and still make perfect sense is that and it can be repeated six times: he said that that that that that that followed….. If you pause after the third that the sense becomes clearer.

I think that one of the nicest sounding words in English is fartleberry. It has such a soft, fruity sound and yet it refers to something quite unpleasant. Fartleberries are the pieces of excrement clinging to the anal hairs – I use the because of course it could never be your or my!

A French word of which I am fond is grincheux, -euse which can be used as an adjective to mean grumpy or grouchy and as a noun to mean a grumbler or grouser. You might think of me as un vieux grincheux or an old grouch.



At a meeting in 1922 between a 20-year-old James Joyce and a 37-year-old WB Yeats Joyce remarked “We have met too late. You are too old for me to have any effect on you.”


Wise words from an ignoranus?

The Washington Post’s Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year’s winners:

1. Bozone (n.) The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
3. Cashtration (n.) The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n) Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n) The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
6 . Inoculatte (v) To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n) Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n) A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n) It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
10 .Decafalon (n.) The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things tha! t are good for you.
11. Glibido (v) All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n) The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.) The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.) Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.) The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

And the pick of the literature:*Ignoranus (n): A person who’s both stupid and an *******.


Notes from a typochondriac

A good friend kindly sent me the results of the annual Washington Post neologism competition in which the readers of the newspaper are asked to submit alternative meanings to existing words. The results are often extremely amusing. Here are examples of  Washington Post neologisms:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly
answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulance (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over
by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that when you die, your Soul flies up
onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

My personal favorite is typochondriac – a paranoid proofreader


A French joke

– Comment appelle-t-on un type qui parle trois langues?
– Un trilingue.
– Et celui qui parle deux langues?
– Un bilangue.
– Comment appelle-t-on un homme qui ne parle qu’une seul langue?
– Un Anglais!


English and the internet

Tom Chatfield in the Guardian Saturday Review section (20/04/13) picked the ten best words the internet has given to the English language  Among the words he included was avatar – the word for our digital incarnations and deriving from a word in Hindu mythology denoting the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form.  Also included was LOL for laugh out loud – a kind of stage direction to the reader and (my favourite) Scunthorpe problems.  The effect was labeled in honour of the town where in 1996 AOL temporarily prevented any Scunthorpe residents from creating user accounts.  The inhabitants of Penistone may well have suffered in a similar manner.!


Oursins dans les poches

In England someone who has money but never puts his hand in his pocket to pay for anything is said to have short arms and deep pockets.  In France they say il a oursins dans les poches.  The sea-urchin was never put to a more graphic use!


Drink your own health

Cataloguing books today I came across one simply entitled Amaroli.  Checking this out I discover that in the Ayurvedic tradition, which is fundamentally taken from the Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, amaroli is the Hindu word for urine therapy.  A lovely sounding word, but I may give the practice a miss.


The right word and a terrible smell

This headline recently appeared in our local paper: