Archives for posts with tag: Old English

And finally, my third of 3 selections in this second series of best entries in Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English, a desk calendar featuring an ancient or obscure word for each day of the year.

This word is the fabulous ‘williewaught’. No, it’s not relating to a part of the male anatomy. It means a large amount of alcoholic drink. As in, he’s had an absolute williewaught full, although they probably never used that kind of phrasing back in 1895. It apparently comes from the Scots word quaich, and before that the Gaelic word cuach, meaning drinking cup, but I’m struggling to see that.

This particular page of the calendar also offers a delightful bit of history around Oktoberfest. People heading to Oktoberfest sometimes say they’re going ‘to the meadow’, and apparent reference to the original site of the festivities.

And finally, on the subject of drinking to excess, to ‘come home by the villages’ meant to be drunk in the early twentieth century, since hostelries were in the villages. To come home by the fields, conversely, where there were no pubs, meant to be sober. Fabulous stuff.

Here’s my second choice in the second 3-part series of cool words from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English, which is one of those page-a-day desk calendars currently adorning my home office.

My choice today is the glorious ‘beastle’, which apparently means to befoul or make filthy. Perhaps it gives rise to the adjective beastly, which we still use these days, though that’s more than likely a variant of the noun beast.

As with part IV, this entry also sticks in the mind for the accompanying ‘on this day in history’ narrative, being the anniversary of the death in 2001 of James ‘The Fox’ Phillips, who was by all accounts one of the earliest eco-saboteurs.

He was a biology teacher who got sick of industrial polluters and from the late 1960s covertly sabotaged – or ‘made filthy’ – factories and terrorised company CEOs in his locality. He seems to be have been the forerunner and perhaps inspiration for organisations like Greenpeace.

Earlier in the year I featured 3 of my favourite instances of Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar, a daily rip-off page devoted to ancient and obscure words. I thought it a good time to revisit them with another 3-part series.

Today’s choice is from 1st October: a come-off

It means an escape or evasion, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard it used that way. It dates from early twentieth century American English.

The calendar not only features a word or phrase, it also ties it to something historical that happened on this day. A Jewish chap called Niels Bohr was helped away on the 1st of October 1943 from Denmark to Sweden and the plan was supposed to be that he would then go to America to help the atomic weapons effort. He dug his heels in since Sweden wouldn’t take Jewish refugees, until the country relented.

As a rather touching postscript, when Sweden’s refugees returned to Copenhagen after the war, they found that their neighbours had looked after their homes. And the rest is history, specifically atomic history in Herr Bohr’s case.

And so we conclude this short burst of 3 of my favourite examples from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar, a daily dip into ancient and obscure words. If you want to see more of them, you’ll have to make a purchase, unless a showcase a few more towards the end of the year.

My last choice is:

Blatteration. Glorious! Defined in Samuel Johnson’s famous mid-eighteenth-century dictionary as a senseless roar, from the Latin blatteratio, which I’d never heard in my years of classical study. It’s also related to blatent (sic), as in bellowing.

It might not be related to blatant, as in screamingly obvious, which is a pity…

I can’t see this word finding its way into everyday twenty-first-century conversation, can you?

Today I’m continuing this week’s 3-part series of my favourite days from Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English page-a-day calendar, which sits proudly on my desk.

My second selection is this:

Puckersnatch.

A glorious word, not least because it comes up on my birthday. It’s a great word to enunciate as loudly as possible, giving one a relaxing sense of release.

It means a difficult or complicated situation, and originates in Southern Vermont where presumably these kids of quandaries were regular enough to coin a word for them.

I haven’t a clue as to the etymology of the word, and neither does anyone else from a quick trawl of the ‘net, but I love it all the same.

This week my three posts will be my favourite examples from a 2019 page-a-day calendar, a rather nice gift that I received for Christmas. I have a soft spot for linguistics and language, so this daily nugget is right up my street.

Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English is a delightful daily combination of a defined ‘olde’ word or phrase and a short celebration of something or someone notable. The word and the celebration are often connected.

Here’s my first choice:

For All Waters

This feeds right into my generalist leanings. If you’re for all waters it means that you can turn yourself to any job, rather like one of those fish that can thrive in either the sea or rivers, lakes and ponds. Apparently it’s from Bill Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which is nice.

I’m going to try and fit into conversation without sounding pompous.