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..."

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