Friday, 2 April 2010

Complete List of 100 Words

There's a full list of words here, but please browse the word lists at the side to view complete posts or else just read on below. Enjoy.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


So today is day 101, properly referred to as "no longer part of the project". The big 100th day celebration was last night, and a load of the 100 day participants brought photos and papers documenting their exploits for the Museum of 100 Days exhibition.

The museum was in a dimly lit Dalston warehouse with rough walls, odd corners and low ceilings, but the combination of the London Word Festival team's decorations and the magic of the exhibits themselves meant the end result was like walking into someone's obsessive, half-crazed collection of curios and novelties: a true hobbyists' curiosity shop in all its glorious weirdness.

Seeing all the projects together was powerful because it made me appreciate the immense range of what had been happening: people making things out of Lego every day, people singing a song to themselves every day, people talking to strangers every day, people going for a walk every day (sponsored, for charity, I might add), people drawing, photographing, writing and creating things every day. Marking the end of the project by bringing together all these disparate, private activities was a wonderful thing. No gimmicks, no spin, just: things we made and did.

There was some great music and standup from Josie Long, Isy Suttie, Sara Pascoe and The Pictish Trail, all connected to their own experiences with the project. The standup was great in all kinds of ways: entertaining, funny, of course, but also inspiring and intelligent (Josie also dealt admirably with some fantastic heckling from a nine-year-old girl). I think the overwhelming message of the night was best summed up by comedian Sara Pascoe. I'm paraphrasing slightly, but it was something along the lines of: no one ever tells you that you're good enough to do something, no one ever tells you that what you're doing is right - you just have to shut up and get on with doing it.

I hope I won't seem ungrateful for saying though that the best bit of the night for me was browsing through the museum, opening a window into everyone's private routines for the last 100 days. Although we were all doing things with the idea that it would "make us better people", I think the main feeling of satisfaction has been generated not by the daily activities themselves, but from having had an end point, marking out a period of sustained achievement. It's a paradox though - it's only in looking back from the finishing point that I can say "wow, look - I did that", when the achievement is simply the accumulation of 100 small, simple acts. If only I could get the same satisfaction from each individual act every time, because that's where the real achievement lies I think.

I do feel a sense of satisfaction in having got through the project. I'm also mildly surprised to look back on quite how much I actually managed to do. I was learning a new word a day, but I don't think it really would have mattered what my activity was (unless it was something bad like "Punch a person every day.") What matters, I think, is that all of us actually did something, every day. If only everything in life was as simple as saying "I want to try and do this" to yourself and then going off and doing it - oh wait a minute: it is.

Another highlight from last night was meeting the couple who exhibited 100 love letters, written from one partner to the other, although I'm a little embarrassed to say I've forgotten their names. The recipient partner wrote something to introduce the exhibit along the lines of "I don't know if it made him a better person, but it made me a happier woman, which I think has probably meant he's been made happier too." Their presentation letter-box was overflowing, as was the wall behind it, and there was something admirably earnest and honest about that project - something really human - that I liked a lot. Of course, my second thought about the love letters was "my boyfriend and I are going to have words about this", but let's not spoil the moment.

I thought about continuing the project beyond the 100 days. It's been genuinely fun uncovering words I didn't know, words like roquelaure, jingbang and paxwax. Imagine if I continued at that rate for the next 100, 1000, 10000 days? Why - I'd be the best scrabble player alive. But inevitably something would interfere with it, or it would quietly trail off and die in a forgotten corner of the internet. That would be a sad ending to the current feeling of resolution I have about the project. As I said above anyway, I don't think the actual words or the specific activities were the important thing. It was about doing something every day just because you said you would; something you didn't always feel like doing; something you sometimes considered to be pointless; but, ultimately, something that was part of a wider project that you decided to be part of for no better reason than because it sounded like a good idea. A bad idea, by contrast, is the suggestion that we now restore the karmic imbalance by doing something for each of the next 100 days to make ourselves worse people (back to the punching people plan). But it illustrates a point: whatever we decide to do every day affects us. We affect other people, so what we do affects them. Small things accumulate into big things. This means that small things matter. What do you want to do today? Can you make time to do something small, or will you do nothing?

If I'm taking anything from this project, it's that good ideas are all around us all the time, as are creative people who are willing to dive in and play around with them. People are awesome, often, as this project has shown, in private, quiet, understated ways. It was nice to talk to people last night who hadn't been keeping blogs or showing off on the internet - they'd just been getting on with it, not looking anywhere else for validation. There's a lesson there.

I'm going to finish up with a few words from a Roisin Tierney poem that feel relevant, and that hopefully go some way towards explaining what I think the 100 days project offered us and what I think about small acts of kindness and creativity:

     and I picked up my pen and found true north,
     and formed an intention as solid as any:

     to write what can be said,
     do what can be done.

Thanks to Josie Long and the London Word Festival team for thinking up the whole thing in the first place, and here's my final, hundredth word. So long, and thanks for all the nouns:

congé n formal or authoritative permission to depart; an abrupt dismissal; a leave-taking; a formal bow.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

penultimate post

FYI there will be a word chosen today, the final day, but all 100dayers are going to be doing their thing at the same time at the party tonight. I'll update the blog with the final entry and a tidy downloadable list of all the words (if anyone wants one) tomorrow. Until then...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Well, well, well - day 99 of the 100 days project. How strange to be coming to the end of it. As such, I've tried to pick a word that I felt had some weight to it, something with great universal meaning that could be absorbed into our emotional makeup and give a new insight into our characters. Handpicked from the dictionary just for you, here's the 99th offering:

dalmahoy n a bushy bob-wig worn in the 18c. [Said to be named from a wearer.] Chambers, 1998

Whose life isn't a little richer for knowing that the word "dalmahoy" exists, eh?

For anyone interested, end of project celebrations and an exhibition are being held tomorrow night:

100 Days To Make Me A Better Person with Josie Long
Weds 10th March 2010
7pm £12 on the door

Work Dalston
Stamford Works
Gillett Street
London N16 8JH

Monday, 8 March 2010


Aha! So this is what that's called!

apocope n loss or omission of the last letter, syllable, or part of a word.

This dictionary's got me hangin' on every word. Ever' word. Ever' wo.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Brilliant. A nice one to pair with dratchell, I think:

slummock vi to move slowly and awkwardly. - n (dialect or colloq) a slovenly person, esp a woman, a slut. Chambers, 1998

Yes, because that's the one thing you always notice about really scantily dressed promiscuous women or sex workers - their slow, awkward movements.

It also follows on quite nicely from yesterday's lurdan, too. Presumably you could have a slummocking lurdan then. Or a slummocking dratchell. In fact, a slummocking just-about-anything sounds good to me. Slummock away, people, slummock away.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


This word feels a bit like I do this morning, as I may have slightly pushed the boundaries of social drinking last night:

lurdan, lurdane or lurden (archaic) n a dull, heavy, stupid or sluggish person. Also adj. [Origin from Old French lourdin dull, from lourd heavy] Chambers, 1998

Friday, 5 March 2010


This word caught my eye despite being fairly unassuming, but the way we store our perishable goods in this house, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to put it to good use.

foughty (dialect) adj musty; mouldy; tainted. [Origin from Old English fuht moist] Chambers, 1998

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Mormops n a genus of repulsive looking American leaf-nosed bats. [Origin from Greek mormo a bugbear, and ops face] Chambers, 1998

I love the etymology: "let's take the word for bloody annoying and put it together with your face".

Anyone wanting a little visual reference, here is a mormops, otherwise known as a ghost-faced bat.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Mm, splendidly oozy, this:

limicolous adj living in mud. - adj limous (archaic) muddy; slimy. [Origin from Latin limus mud and colere to dwell] Chambers, 1998

Can't believe there's only a week left of the 100 days project (this is already day 93). It's gone so quickly. I'd better pick some good words to go out on.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Going through words starting with "de-" in the dictionary is depressing. They're all about losing or leaving: deforestation, defloration, deflation, deformation - that is until you find defenestration, which is still one of my favourite words (the act of flinging someone out of a window). Oh, er - and delight too I suppose. Yes, that's not a sad word. Anyway, here's a word that was new to me for today's choice:

desipient adj playing the fool; trifling - n desipience. [Origin from Latin desipiens, -entis, pr p of desipere, from de- (negative) and sapere to be wise] Chambers, 1998

I think I like it because it's such a formal word to use for something so bumbling. Suggested usage: Who is this desipient joskin?

FYI I almost picked datolite, which I misread as "a hydrated silicate of bacon and calcium". (It was boron.)

Monday, 1 March 2010


I'm sure I've sat next to this guy on the bus before:

fremescent (rare) adj growling or muttering. - n fremescence. [Origin from the Latin fremere to growl] Chambers, 1998

Sunday, 28 February 2010


I love this word, even though I could have guessed the meaning:

tatterdemalion n a tattered person, a ragamuffin [Origin from tattered or tatter, with termination of uncertain formation] Chambers, 1998

I don't know where the ending comes from either, but maybe it's something to do with the Latin word malus meaning bad. Or, uh, something do with lions?

Saturday, 27 February 2010


mallemaroking (naut; rare) carousing of seamen in icebound ships [Obscure Dutch mallemerok, a romping woman, from mal foolish, and marok, from French marotte a favoured object]

The word itself sounds amazing (sort of "mally-ma-ROOking"), but the etymology is fascinating too - we're talking about a word that means crazy drunken sailors. And crazy drunken sailors specifically on an icebound ship, headed north. Where's the word come from? The idea of a romping woman, which might go some way to explaining their highly excited mood. But where does the woman come from? She comes from the word for "foolish". So actually the drunken partying has taken on a bit of a pathetic tone. But wait - the French word for "a favoured object" is in there too - she may be a complete slut, but we love her for it. Now the sailors drinking seems happy, appreciative of small human things, perhaps even a little nostalgic.

In the space of a few lines in a dictionary, this word has gone from wild-eyed drunkenness to sad sluttiness to happy, quiet nostalgia - just like so many of the great long sessions, eh? I will endeavour to remember this word and bring it up the next time I find myself wearied with whiskey at three in the morning. Of course I'll probably remember it wrong and spend ten minutes repeating myself: "there's this great ice sailing word, the Germans, no, wait, it's French, and the women, drinking, there's a boat, you know, ice, moomoomoorooookka roook kkaaaaaaaaahh..."

Friday, 26 February 2010


This is a medical word, but I like it for shamefully 'poetical' reasons:

asystole (med) n inability of the heart to empty itself - Also asystolism [Origin from Greek a- (privative), and systole contraction] Chambers, 1998 (FYI it's pronounced like "a(h)-SIS-toe-lee"

I'm too ashamed to comment further. Will return to some pleasantly smutty dratchell-type words tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


I am shocked that there is a word for this other than "rung" and I've never heard of it before:

rundle n a rung of a ladder; a wheel or similar rotating object [Origin from Middle English var. of roundel]

Shocked, I say to you, shocked.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Well, I know I've already had a humdudgeon, but I couldn't resist this word too. Stick a "hum" in front of anything and I'll go for it.

humgriffin or humgruffian n a terrible person. [Apparently hum (to make a sound like bees) and griffin (imaginary animal with lion's body and eagle's beak)] Chambers, 1998

It sounds like a word from a fairytale, although I'd like to reintroduce it in the context of pushy commuters.

Also, I know that "to make a sound like bees" is an accurate description of humming, but it still makes me laugh written down.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


criant adj garish, discordantly coloured. [French] Chambers, 1998

I'm having fun applying this adjective to some of the nouns I've found on my travels:

A criant dratchell

A criant bagarre

A criant jingbang

A criant morkin

I don't think a single one of those is actually appropriate.

Oh, also, check out another act of plagiarism thrown this way by @sheennotheard : He says his sword is mightier than his pen is, but I wonder.

Monday, 22 February 2010


A little word to start off the week:

roke (dialect) n a vapour; steam; mist; small rain; smoke. - vt and vi to steam; to smoke. -adj roky. [Perh Scand] Chambers, 1998

Sunday, 21 February 2010


To follow on from yesterday's theme of words that are appropriate for the weekend:

larrikin (Austr) n a rough or hooligan; someone who is careless of usual social conventions or behaviour - Also adj - n larrikinism. [Origin doubtful; a connection with "larking about" has been suggested but remains unsubstantiated; also perhaps Cornish larrikin a rowdy youth] Chambers, 1998

There are so many things I like about this word. The sheer sound of it, for one: "larrikin". It sounds like it should be a sherry glass. Then the definition: "a rough". That's brilliant. When was the last time you heard "rough" used as a noun?

"Darling, I sat next to the most dreadful rough on the commuter train this morning."
"Oh how awful. How about a larrikin of sherry?"

Also, though, I like the way the origin is described as "doubtful", before Captain Dictionary goes on to say that there is a Cornish word "larrikin" with a near-identical meaning. Mystery solved, I'd say! Or has Captain Dictionary forgotten that some Cornish people would have been involved in the initial European colonisation of Australia? Congratulations, you forefathers with your casual "sweep them under the equator" attitude. This larrikin's for you. As for Captain Dictionary, don't get me started.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


Well, this seems to be a suitable Saturday night word:

dratchell (dialect) n a slut

Er, yes. Think I'll leave that one there.

Friday, 19 February 2010


oscheal (med) adj relating to the scrotum. [Origin from Greek oscheon scrotum] Chambers, 1998

The less said about this word the better, but I can imagine inserting it into a long string of general insults: "Why you low-down, good-for-nothing, oscheal, curmurring cockatrice" or similar.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


I'm delighted that @twentington has put this blog to excellent use in the 100 Days project's "plagiarism week" and made a poem out of lots of the words I've found here. Go and look, it's a work of brilliance.

In his honour, I've chosen a word whose exuberance will I hope be taken in the spirit of celebration rather than, er, weirdness. FYI, it's pronounced like home:

heaume (archaic) n a massive helmet [Origin from French] Chambers, 1998

Interestingly, the origin of "helmet" is Old English helm and German Helm, so this is something slightly different. Also, IT IS MASSIVE.

Join me in celebration of the giant heaume!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Rushing out the door, so just a quickie for today I like the sound of:

quiddle (dialect) vi to trifle - n a fastidious person. - quiddler. Chambers, 1998

Presumably you can quiddle with a quiddler then? What would that entail - putting coathangers in the wardrobe facing different ways perhaps? Or rearranging tins in the food cupboard?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


Yeeuch. I always wondered if this had a specific name, being something of a Murder She Wrote/Poirot devotee (for my sins):

curettage (surg) n the scraping of a body cavity or internal organ by means of a spoon-shaped instrument known as a curette, usu to remove diseased dissue or a sample of tissue for diagnostic purposes - curette to scrape with a curette - n curettement curettage. [Origin from French curer to clean, clear] Chambers, 1998

In my random, brokenly-linking brain the sound of it reminds me of carrots, and now I'm thinking of a curettage salad, and how awesomely unpleasant that might be.

Monday, 15 February 2010


bagarre (French) n a scuffle, brawl, rumpus. Chambers, 1998

There's only one rule about bagarre club: don't talk about bagarre club, etc.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


What a wonderful word:

oxter (Scot) n the armpit - vt to take under the arm; to support by taking the arm. [Origin from Old English oxta] Chambers, 1998

I really do love all these Scots words. My gran was Scottish - I wonder how many of these she would have already known.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


This is how I'm considering reacting to another one of these "themed" weeks from Team 100:

vi to lie low - vt to hide [Origin from French tapir, tapiss-] Chambers, 1998

This weekend I am officially going to tappice myself.

Friday, 12 February 2010


Well, this is still vaguely relevant to the bits of cold weather Britain's getting at the moment:

graupel n frozen rain or snowflakes. [Origin from German graupeln to sleet] Chambers, 1998

The most disappointing weather activity known to man - it's not quite rain, it's not quite snow, but it's cold enough to give you ruddy cheeks for the next seven hours.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Just a quickie, today. For the man/woman who has all the interjections:

aikona (Bantu) interj it is not; no (Chambers, 1998)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


I'm including this not so much for the word itself, but for the wonderful overly-English definition that comes with it:

pium n a small but very troublesome Brazilian biting fly (Origin from Tupi) Chambers, 1998

I can just visualise the scene at the Explorer's Club: "Very troublesome, weren't they, Jenkins?" "Oh yes, vey troublesome, vey troublesome."

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


At last, a useful relationship word. Heh:

hircine adj goat-like; having a strong goatish smell. n hircosity goatishness - hircocervus a fabulous creature, half goat, half stag.

I will hope to use this word frequently. I suspect it may make a nice partner to curmurring. And just in case you want to know what Mr Hircocervus looks like, here's a postcard:

Monday, 8 February 2010


I can think of a few ways I could use this word in everyday speech though most of them are insulting, which is a shame as it's such a nice word.

benthonic or benthoal adj living on the sea bottom.

Seahorses are benthonic. I wouldn't like to insult a seahorse, they're far too pretty. Also they blend in well with their surroundings, which makes them all the better for benthonically stalking you before leaping out from the benthonic undergrowth to give you a benthonic good beating.

Uh, anyway, some related words here:

n the flora and fauna of the sea bottom or lake bottom adj benthopelagic (of marine fauna) living just above the sea bed n benthoscope a submersible sphere from which to study deep-sea life. [Origin from Greek benthos depth] Chambers, 1998

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Today's offering:

ooidal adj egg-shaped. [Origin from Greek oioeides, from oion and eidos form] Chambers, 1998

It's prounounced, roughly, oh-oy-dal, with emphasis on the Oy. Feel rather like I should know this one too. It's a great word though - strikes me as a useful one in scrabble.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


Again, why don't I know this word? It seems very familiar:

minacious adj threatening. n minacity. [Origin from Latin minax, -acis, from minari to threaten] Chambers, 1998

Just a quickie. Have some place minacious to be.

Friday, 5 February 2010


I can't stop smiling at this word. Apologies if you already knew this - I hadn't heard of it before. What a brilliant word!

yakow n an animal crossbred from a male yak and a domestic cow. [yak and cow] Chambers, 1998

Not only is it a wonderful example of the simple adaptability of language (and indeed animal breeding), but it sounds like it should be a sound effect in a comic. YAKOW!

And in case you were wondering, my Chambers doesn't list any words to describe an animal crossbred from a female yak and a domestic bull, though I did try looking up cowak, cowyak and coyak. The only other amusing related word I found was this (and note the origins of "cow" - very interesting):

cowpuncher (US colloq) a cowboy; a herder of cows [Origin of cow from Old English cu, German Kuh and Sanskrit go a bull, cow]

Oh no! The cowpuncher's gone for the big one: YAKOW!

Thursday, 4 February 2010


On the one hand I'm disappointed with this word, because its meaning is fairly easy to guess just from looking at it. On the other hand, I love the sheer naughtiness of the way it sounds: it's a very sultry word. I think we're talking sexy-good-witch-of-the-North, not wicked-witch-with-curly-under-house-toes.

ensorcell (archaic and poetic) vt to bewitch. [Origin from Old French ensorceler, from en, and sorcier a sorcerer] Chambers, 1998

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Hang on - is this what the mice were saying in the middle of the Dogtanian themetune?

rataplan n a drumming sound [Origin from French] Chambers, 1998

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Mmm, lovely. I want to say this word over and over:

susurrus (poetic) n a murmuring; a whisper; a rustling. adj susurrant. vi susurrate. n susurration. [Origin from Latin susurrus] Chambers, 1998

Let's move it from the purely "poetic" back into general usage, shall we?

Monday, 1 February 2010


wankle (dialect) adj unstable, unsteady; changeable; not to be depended on. [Origin from Old English wancol; of Germanic origin] Chambers, 1998

Brilliant. Not only is it a great word but this is definitely one I think I can insert into my active vocabulary. I feel like I want it to be a noun instead of an adjective though - the example below feels wrong. I keep thinking of it as a word like "fickle" in terms of audible comparison.


I went to the Poetry Live For Haiti reading on Saturday. Gordon Brown went too. He gave a speech at the start but then only stayed for the first poet's reading, ducking out straight after Dannie Abse finished. He is a wankle man, at least when it comes to poetry.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


Enough of the gout-tastic words. Here's a lovely word that I may well be able to use a bit more frequently:

volucrine adj relating to birds, bird-like. [Origin from Latin volucris a bird, from volare to fly] Chambers, 1998

What a splendid word. Very noble. The polar opposite of chiragra, in fact.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


Here's one of the least romantic words I've found yet, although I think it sounds rather pleasant, like it should be a type of bird, or cloud:

chiragra n gout in the hand. adj chiragric or chiragrical. [Origin from Greek cheiragra, from cheir hand, and agra a catching]

Next week I must start making a more concerted effort to get back to words that can be used on a daily basis. Hand-gout isn't really one of them, is it?

Friday, 29 January 2010


You may notice that I've totally abandoned love week. Flicking through the dictionary to find new words is one thing, narrowing them down to just one topic starts has haystack analogies. Still, this is an interesting one - didn't know there was a word for this:

quincunx n an arrangement of five things at the corners and centre of a square (eg as seen on cards and dice), or of a great number of things (esp trees) spaced in the same way; an aspect of 150 degrees between two heavenly bodeis (astrol). [Origin from Latin quincunx, from quinque five, and uncia a twelfth part]

and also an adjective to go with it:

quincuncial adj of or in a quincunx; (of aestivation) having two leaves overlapping at each edge, two underlapping at each edge, and one overlapping and underlapping (bot)

Will try and keep an eye out for some quincunxes later. Oh, also, aestivation means "a manner of folding in the flower bud". Another new word for me there.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


mamelon n a rounded hill or protuberance. [Origin French, nipple] Chambers, 1998

This seems fairly self-explanatory. The origin makes everything clear. Ooh Mrs Brown, you have got a lovely pair of mamelons etc.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


Well this seems like a suitable word now we're heading towards Valentine's Day - lots of these in the shops:

trangam n a showy, worthless article or knick-knack. [Origin unknown]

What a depressing word. I look forward to owning many of these on shelves when I'm old and have only my dusting to look forward to.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Just a quick one today, for the femme fatale who has every adjective:

funest (obs) adj deadly; lamentable [Origin from French, from Latin funestus destructive] Chambers, 1998

Monday, 25 January 2010


This word should practically be my middle name. Although my middle name is Maria. A lot of the women on my mum's side of the family are called Maria in fact. But back to the word in hand:

ecbole n a digression (rhetoric); the raising or sharpening of a tone (music); adj ecbolic (med) inducing contractions of the uterus leading to childbirth or abortion - n a drug having this effect. [Origin from Greek ekbole throwing out, from ek out of, and ballein to throw] Chambers, 1998

It's pronounced "ek bowl ee", with the stress on the "ek". What a wonderful array of meanings. That reminds me, I met this well-meaning dog once who...

Sunday, 24 January 2010


To continue on the theme of love week, here's another word you may recognise as a feature of long-term relationships:

vapulate vt to flog - vi to be flogged n vapulation a flogging. [Origin from Latin vapulare, -atum to be flogged.] Chambers, 1998

Am thinking along the lines of a strictly metaphorical vapulation by the way. This isn't that kind of blog.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


So, this has been named "love week" by Team 100 days. I've tried my best to find a suitable word for the theme, and think I've come up with a character who should be immediately recognisable to anyone who's ever dated inappropriate people in the past:

cockatrice n a fabulous monster, a serpent with the wings of a bird and the head of a cock; a cock-like monster with a dragon's tail (heraldry); a prostitute (obs); a mischievous or treacherous person (fig). [Origin from Old French cocatris] Chambers, 1998

Paul Frampton. Denmark Road, Exeter. 1996. A world class cock-monster/prostitute if ever I dated one.

Friday, 22 January 2010


I'm going to find an everyday use for this word so help me:

turbary n the right to take peat from another's ground; a palce where peat is dug. [Origin from late Latin turbaria, from turba turf; of Germanic origin]

Nice to see some of the ol' late Latin making an appearance. In my head it's what's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was to The Waste Land. No less revered and important, but an entirely different kettle of - well - cats. (Or peat.)

Thursday, 21 January 2010


pythogenic adj produced by filth [Origin from Greek pythein to rot] Chambers, 1998

I didn't already know this word, but I mostly just wanted to contrast it with the word that's next but one:

Pythonesque adj (of humour) bizarre and surreal, as in the BBC television comedy programme Monty Python's Flying Circus.

It's not from Latin, it's not from Greek, but it's good.

EDIT: Of course it IS from Greek. Whoops!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


This is not a word I'm ever going to be able to legitimately use in conversation, however I've decided to include it here as it provided me with another good "me vs the dictionary" moment. (Actually, I probably will use it in conversation, but only when relating this story.)

bovate n an oxgang Chambers, 1998

What on earth's an oxgang?! I duly flicked over to the "O" section to find out (as I'm guessing an oxgang isn't a herd of oxen with flick knives) only to discover that it isn't even in the dictionary.

So, I thought I would give the internet a go. said it was sorry but it didn't know that word. Then I tried, which told me to "See Bovate". After stifling a scream I clicked over to the bovate page, hoping that it wouldn't simply say "See Oxgang". Anyway, it gave a proper definition and as soon as I read it I
realised just why both of these words might have been selected for gradual phasing out:

bovate n an old English unit of land area measurement equivalent to one-eighth of a carucate.

Ah - so it's about an eighth of a carucate then? I see! Problem solved! If only I KNEW WHAT A CARUCATE WAS.

carucate n an old English unit of land-area measurement, varying from 60 to 160 acres.

Varying from 60 to 160 acres? So a bovate could be anything from 7.5 to 20 acres? That's it - I've had enough of this nonsense! I think this entire set of words deserves to be packed off to a resthome for verbally infirm.

Who'll join me in recasting an oxgang as cows with flick knives?!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Sexy word Tuesday!

exiguous adj scanty; slender adv exiguously n exiguity
n exiguousness. [Origin from Latin exiguus, from exigere to weigh strictly] Chambers, 1998

You can see why "scantily-clad" won the battle against "exiguously-clad".

Monday, 18 January 2010


I can't believe this is a word!

jingbang (slang) n company; collection; lot [Origin unknown] Chambers 1998

Another origin unknown word. Brilliant. Should be making a jingbang of them, really.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Just a quickie - odd looking word:

weasand n the windpipe: the throat [Origin from Old English waesend, wasend] Chambers Students' Dictionary 1980

Saturday, 16 January 2010


Okay, yes, I like the sound of this word, but also I've picked this because I'm confused as to how it could possibly mean both of the things it claims to mean. (I blame having to use a Chambers Student Dictionary from the '80s at my parents' house.)

sackbut n an early form of the trombone: a stringed instrument resembling the guitar. [Origin from French saquebute] Chambers Student Dictionary, 1980

A trombone AND a guitar? Why, that sounds like the best instrument in the world!

Google translate is useless and I don't have a French dictionary to hand. Anyone know what "saquebute" means in French these days?

Friday, 15 January 2010


Some people might pretend they don't need to know this word, but everyone knows what this word means, and everyone needs to know it at some point:

curmurring n a rumbling sound, esp that made in the bowels by flatulence. [Imitative origin] Chambers, 1998


Thursday, 14 January 2010


This word sounds very familiar, but the meaning surprised me so I'm sticking it up here. I think I must have heard it before but just not known quite what it meant.

ultion (obs) n revenge; avengement [Origin from Latin ultio, -onis] Chambers, 1998

I was watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou again recently. What would be the purpose of killing the jaguar shark? Ultion, pure and simple.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


This is a nice oozy word - it rhymes with beach:

queach (obs) n a thicket adj queachy or queechy forming a thicket; boggy; sickly. [Origin obscure] Chambers, 1998

It's another "origin obscure" word, too. I love those. It'd be great to have a dictionary that was only made up of words with obscure origins, like having a dictionary to a fantasy language or something.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Ooh, I've got some friends like this in Italy:

nidicolous adj (of young birds) staying for longer than average in the nest. [Origin from Latin nidus a nest, and colere to inhabit] Chambers, 1998

I think this word is just crying out to be applied to humans, too.

Monday, 11 January 2010


The meaning of this word sounds nice, healthy and organic:

xylophilous adj fond of wood, living on wood [Origin from Greek xylon wood] Chambers, 1998

I'm sure there's some really puerile double entendre waiting to pounce on it though.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


rhopalic adj (of a verse) having each word a syllable longer than the one before n rhopalism [Origin from Greek rhopalikos clublike, rhopalon a club] Chambers, 1998

This pesky syllable experiment
is rather dismally problematic.
It's also acutely irritating.

Enough of that nonsense. Nice sounding word, though.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


A quick celebrational dancing word for the weekend. The best meaning is the second one though:

tripudium n an ancient Roman religious dance in triple time, or dance generally; divination from the hopping of birds feeding, or from the dropping of scraps from their bills. adj tripudiary vi tripudiate to dance for joy; to exult; to stamp n tripudiation. [Origin from Latin tripudium, probably from tres three, and pes, pedis foot.

Divination from the hopping of birds? Mustn't tell my mum about this or she'll start using it to pick lottery numbers.

Friday, 8 January 2010


Ooh, I love this word!

paxwax n the strong tendon in an animal's neck. [Origin from Old English (Anglian) faex (Western Saxon feax) hair, and weaxan to grow] Chambers, 1998

An extremely old word then, and you can tell from the sound. It'd be a lovely little scorer in scrabble if only there was more than one "X" tile.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


I predict this word will be needed once the snow melts away to reveal the earth beneath:

fuscous adj brown; dingy [Origin from Latin fuscus] Chambers, 1998

Mmmm. Lovely brown.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Another grand Scottish word:

kippage (Scot) n a state of displeasure or anger. [Origin from French équipage, probably from Old Norse skipa to set in order, and skip a ship; partly influenced by confusion with Latin equus a horse] Chambers, 1998

I'd say this snow's putting everyone into a right kippage at the moment. We should be rumbustious instead while it lasts!

EDIT: The noble gentleman @simonholmes has tweeted his disappointment that kippage is nothing to do with having a kip. I agree, actually, so have suggested to twitter that we change its meaning to "nap" permanently. Oh dear. This has all the makings of a dysfunctional Facebook group.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


The lovely people at the 100 Days blog have thrown down the gauntlet in response to Matt Sheret's note: “If You’ve Got Something Interesting To Say Then Say It. But Don’t Say It In Glitter.” I've found a great word that's therefore vaguely on topic. Bear with me.

Captain Thesaurus helped me find synonyms for glitter, and somewhere down the bottom of the list (after the flashy, glistering, shimmery words) I found "phlogiston". I dutifully looked it up as I'd never heard of it before. It is an awesome word:

phlogiston n an imaginary element, believed in the 18c to separate from every combustible body in burning. adj phlogistic of, like or containing phlogiston (chem); combustible (archaic); inflammatory (med); fiery.

There's also a verb:

phlogisticate vt to combine with phlogiston [Origins from Greek neuter of verbal adj phlogistos burnt, inflammable, from phlogizein to set on fire] Chambers, 1998

18th century means it's slightly later than the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s, but burnings were still in full swing as capital punishment in many countries. (They only stopped in England after a bill was passed in 1790). Phlogiston was in fact thought to be the element largely responsible for combustion in all flammable materials, and the origins of this theory are tied up with alchemy in the 1600s. I like to call it the Crazy Science. Captain Wikipedia has a bit more random information about it.

Returning to the task in hand though, it's a brilliant word and I imagine it would sparkle like glitter if phlogiston was real; sort of a cross between fireworks and a Star Trek transporter beam.
Phlogiston: Energize!

Monday, 4 January 2010


A quickie this morning:

humdudgeon n an unnecessary outcry (Scot); low spirits (dialect). Chambers, 1998

This leads us to another word of unknown origin:

dudgeon n resentment; offended indignation, esp as in in high dudgeon. [Origin unknown] (second meaning: n the haft of a dagger) Chambers, 1998

If it's unknown, then where did we/the Scots get it from? I demand answers, dictionary!

Sunday, 3 January 2010


I realise I havn't picked any "e" words yet, so on a quick flick here is:

eccoproctic adj laxative, mildly cathartic n a laxative [Origin from Greek ekkoprotikos, from ek out of, and kopros dung] Chambers, 1998

There's three things I like about this word. Firstly, the odd, pseudo-scientific sound of it. Secondly, I think it could be widely applicable to non-dung-related situations (for example, I suspect that completing my tax return will have a fairly eccoproctic effect). Thirdly, it taught me that "kopros" is the Greek word for dung. Hooray!

Saturday, 2 January 2010


In honour of the many friends who have recently announced either engagements or pregnancies (no one's announced both together) I give you the delightfully ambiguous:

pigsney, pigsny or pigsnie (archaic) n a term of endearment (sometimes contempt), esp to a woman; an eye (playfully; obs) [Origin from pig's eye, with prosthetic n (from an eye, mine eye)] Chambers, 1998

Must confess I don't fully understand the origin description, however I know pig comes from Middle English so I'll guess this is a fairly old word. I think it's brilliant that it can be used with both love and contempt.

While we're here though, I must also introduce the delightful:

pigsconce n a pigheaded person Chambers, 1998

Does the English language have too many words for pigheadedness? Internet says: no.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Let's start the new year with another word I feel sure I should have heard before but can't seem to recall:

amanuensis n (pl amanuenses) somebody employed to write from dictation or to copy a manuscript

This is a profession that must have fallen out of favour a long time ago, particularly in terms of the secondary definition. I have someone I occasionally employ to copy my manuscripts, but I call him HP Deskjet.

Happy New Year, everybody.