The 2013 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.
Here is my thesis:
(a) I love words.
(b) Words are better when they’re weird.
I’ve got a stack of ‘weird and unusual word’ books, from which I’ve got a bunch of favourites. These words have turned up in student essays. Probably frustating when those essays are being marked not by me, but by my erstwhile friend Marika, but she’s taught them a few words of her own, if you ignore the official parental complaints.
Their brilliance usually comes from the perfect combination of syllables that makes it clanging obvious that of course that’s what that word means. Take squirk, for example, meaning a half-suppressed laugh. Or jiffle, meaning fidgeting. See what I mean?
Also, side note–‘callipygian’ (what a splendid word) showed up in a song by the marvellous John Grant. His tour t-shirt does, in fact, feature the word on the back of the shirt… presented as a dictionary definition. I think I sense an idea for a fashion range coming on…
Anyway: here are a few of my favourites. Prizes for slipping them into everyday conversation.
Bablatric: a female babbler
Calliygian: having shapely buttocks
Jiffle: fidget or shuffle
Honeyfuggle: to swindle or cheat
Houghmagandy: sexual intercourse with a person one is not married to
(a ridiculously rare word, except when it
turns up in Nabazov’s Pale Fire, apparently)
Indagatrix: did you know that ‘Investigator’ is a gendered-male word? Well, this is the female alternative. So much cooler.
Brume: mist or fog
Draffsack: literally: a bag of rubbish; figuratively: a fat belly
Aspectabund: having an expressive face
Limerance: the initial exhilarating rush of falling in love
Blandiose: something that wishes to be grand, but is only bland (i.e. literary fiction)
Atrabilious: melancholy or bad-tempered
Mammothrept: a spoiled child
Gammerstang: a tall, awkward woman–a word I feel should make it’s way into Season 4 of Miranda.
Meacock: a cowardly or effeminate person
Illywhacker: a small-time con artist
Mouton Enrage: an angry person who is usually calm. Literally: angry sheep (!)
Hodmandod: literally: scarecrow; figuratively: a stranger
Milce-hearted: someone who has known mercy, i.e. soft, hasn’t known the ‘real world’
Nimfadoro: an effiminate man, well-dressed, popular with women
Gongoozler: a rubbernecker/nosy-parker. Originally, literally, a person who stares at activity on a canal. Which is quite specific.
Camorra: a secret society, usually illegal
Turngiddy: dizzy from spinning around
Pilgarlic: a bald person. Literally: peeled garlic
Pronk: a weak or foolish person
Woofits: an unwell feeling
Snollygoster: a dishonest politican
Pyknic: (I love this one!) an adjective meaning stocky
(originally a medical term from when there was a belief that a pyknic man was more likely to be a) depressed and b) a murderer!)
Squirk: a half-suppressed laugh
Bloviate: speaking in a pompous or over-bearing way
Immensikoff: a general descriptive term for an overcoat trimmed with fur
Fleer: to laugh in a disrespectful or jeering way
Twitter-light: the origin of ‘twilight’, meaning the same. Much better for knowing that there is a companion phrase: ‘twatter-light’
Scrippage: one’s baggage and belongings when holidaying
Nidgery: trifling or foppish
Waff: literally: a slight puff of breeze; figuratively: a slight touch of illness
Monkey’s Wedding: simultaneous rain and sun
Carriwitchet: a pun or conundrum
Fankle: to tangle up
Rassasy: satiate a hungry person
Rawky: foggy, damp and cold (i.e. weather in Manchester)
Decemnovenarianize: to act like a person of the nineteenth century
and the reigning champion:
Nieflings: the collective term for nieces and nephews.
P.S. On the subject of collective terms, everyone knows ‘murder of crows’ but there really are some fascinating ones out there. A mischief (or glaring) of cats. Shrewdness of apes. Babble of barbers. Parcel of deer. Souffle of clouds. Business of ferrets (there’s a novel title in there…) A wiggle of Elvis impersonators. Bloat of hippopotami. Siege of herons (the follow-up novel…) Puddling of ducks. A pot of dieters. A luck of dice. A wiggery of barristers. A magnum of assassins. Pandemonium of parrots. Murmuration of starlings. Blessing of unicorns. Scream of swifts (the last of the trilogy…) Parenthesis of cellists (Booker Winner 2016.) Asylum of drummers (2017.) An ingratitude of children. And finally, superbly, a superfluity of nuns.