A recent missive on my top 10 favourite words prompted
three nice hundreds of compliments to come flooding in and as I’m inclined to please, I thought you’d like some more. English is a moveable feast, full of words from other cultures and periods in history; new words appear in the OED every year, some of which outrage me but that’s a blog for another time.
Tiny History Stuff
Until about the 12th Century, we spoke and wrote ye olde Englishe; it looks and sounds like nothing we could remotely understand today. It’s lovely to listen to, though. Very mellifluous.
Middle English spanned 1100 to 1500. Part vernacular and Norman French (thanks, Mr William the Conk), if you ever got to grips with The Canterbury Tales (good) or any Medieval tales of derring-do (ghastly), that’s ye lingo in whiche it were writte.
Shakespeare’s plays are written in Modern English. Oh yes they are. From the 16th Century onwards the Great Vowel Shift and the Renaissance chucked new pronunciation and lots of new words into our language. We even had our first dictionary published, surely a fairly slim volume and probably without floccinaucinihilipilification. You’re still getting over Shakespeare’s plays being modern English, aren’t you?
The lovely melting pot that is our English language explains why I like…
Quidnunc. How blimmin’ marvellous is this word? It means one who gossips.
Frippet – a flighty young woman prone to showing off, similar to flibbertigibbet, I guess. Frippet is probably where frippery comes from.
Note: if you’ve ever asked yourself what the word is for a parchment on which the original text has been wholly or partially erased, then overwritten by another, wonder no more – it’s palimpsest, but you must use it in no other context. I am beside myself with joy at this unbelievably specific definition.
Ripple. A very small wave. And a chocolate bar.
We’ve got some jolly odd words, too. Take oxter, for example: not the armpit but the space under the arm. Weird, but good.
Here’s the thing: most Sunday mornings I am a Tatterdemalion: a person with tattered clothing or of unkempt appearance. Nice.
Comely. This slightly sleazy word rolls around the tongue, putting me in mind of a buxom young woman with a piece of straw hanging out of the side of her mouth, tempting young farmers into the way of the flesh. On hay bales.
Lissom and lithe are also somewhat post-watershed.
I love sepulchral, or pertaining to the tomb, as I think this wonderful word reflects our erstwhile (another good word) obsession with death and dying. I don’t see an immediate future use for it, though.
You could call my career serendipitous, finding something nice while looking for something else; similarly the noun serendipity. It’s happy word, it evokes smiling angels and rosy-cheeked cherubs.
And, who doesn’t love the word imbroglio, meaning an altercation or complicated situation? Please may we bring it back into everyday use?
Oh, I could do this all day. There are loads more but you’ve probably got things to do. I’ve got crisp, velvety, euphonious purple prose to write for websites so I’d better get on.