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?!


  1. I was actually confronted by a bovate on my way home the other day. They were in full stampede, and almost trampled me. I was only saved when I held out my hands in defence, exposing my chiragra - a condition the oxgang has come to revere as a sign of the sacred one. I am their goddess, apparently. They now carry me around on a sedan and fan me with palm fronds. (And to think I had cursed my chiragra!) Thus, it is my decree that bovate remain part of our lexicon.

  2. If I had prizes to give out then you would most certainly have to get one. (Note to self: get prizes.)