Posts Tagged ‘words’

10 words (part 3)

It’s Wednesday and time for my guest blogger to take over today 🙂


10 WORDS – 3

Well it’s roughly 3 months since I did my last 10 words post (and about 3 months before that the first one) so here goes with a third lot. But just before I get into the new words I thought it might be good to just list the previous ones. How many meanings you can remember?

(19.12.12) 10 Words – 1: Scrofulous, Saponifying, Manticora, Nutation, Costive, Smörgåsbord, Panemone, Leitmotif, Rhabdomancy, Scrimshaw.

(20.03.13) 10 Words – 2: Chthonian, Sisyphean, Anaglyptography, Dendrochronology, Agitprop, Fomites, Voroni Diagram, Uxorious, Prolegomena, Armigerous.

Here we go:

1. TAPHEPHOBIA – (From p.26 in March 2013 edition of magazine called Wonderpedia)

It means: the fear of being buried alive.

The sentence in the magazine is simply explaining its meaning so no need to quote it here.

2. GARDEROBE – (This is from p.483 of The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien)

It means: a wardrobe or its contents, an armoury, a private room, a privy.

Now that’s quite a spread of meanings so I think you have to gauge the right one by the context. Clearly the word is of French origin and at first glance would appear to suggest a place to keep (garde) a robe or clothing. Whilst this is definitely one of its meanings, in the use quoted below it probably refers to something which was a forerunner of our modern day toilet (so the privy definition). Some medieval castles had a simple hole which went through the wall into either a cesspit or the moat. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t a good idea to try and escape by swimming across the moat; it could easily have contained untold amounts of human faeces

Here’s a picture of one built in a castle in England.,_Peveril_Castle,_Derbyshire.jpg

Certain types of Middle Eastern dhows, even today, still have a small box built onto the stern which crew members can crouch down in so that the waste (number 2s!) goes out into the water. You can see them along the Creek in Dubai and other ports around the Arabian Gulf. (Colloquially, they were called “thunder boxes” when I was there.)

And here’s how it’s used in the book:

“I groaned with the pain, retching into the garderobe until my belly was raw and then I was driven to my chamber with curtains pulled to douse me in darkness until I could withstand the light once more.”

3. TERGIVERSATION– (This is from p.64 of the BBC History Magazine, Apr 2013)

It means: the turning of one’s back, desertion, changing of sides, shuffling, shifting

And here’s how it’s used (in the review of a book by J. Patrick Corby):

“Corby describes his target audience as college students, and the opening survey of European History, and the introductory tone of much of his prose appears to confirm this. Yet such students might stumble over words like ‘tergiversation’ or baulk at a number of unsubstantiated statements…..”

4. SORTILÈGES – (This is from p.23 of the BBC History Magazine, Apr 2013)

It means: divination by drawing lots.

And here’s how it’s used in an article about Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn:

“Another story, reported third-hand by Chapuys, quotes Henry as telling an unidentified courtier that he had married Anne ‘seduced and constrained by sortilèges’”.

5. HENDIADYS – (This is from p.36 of The Acts of the Apostles by J. A. Alexander)

It means: An expression in which an adjective & noun are replaced by two nouns joined by ‘and’: e.g. saying someone was ‘clad in cloth & green’ instead of ‘clad in green cloth’.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Ministry & apostleship is not a mere hendiadys meaning apostolic ministry but a generic and specific term combined, the one denoting service in general, the other a particular office.”

A further well-known example can be found in a line in The Lord’s Prayer: “For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory”, which is another way of saying, “For Thine is the glorious, powerful Kingdom”. In this case, two adjectives & a noun are replaced by three nouns with the conjunction ‘and’ linking them to give an additional emphasis.


6. HAMADRYAD – (This is from p.160 of The Elizabethans by A. N. Wilson)

It means: A wood-nymph which dies when the tree in which she lives dies or a large Ethiopian baboon.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Even the hunting parties were punctuated with pageantry. As she came riding home one evening, she was met by Gascoigne dressed as the Savage Man. On another evening he was Sylvanus, god of the woods, who told her that all the forest dwellers, the fauns, dryads, hamadryads and wood-nymphs were in tears at the rumour that she might be about to leave.”

Here’s a pic of one type of Hamadryad

Try getting that one into your conversation this week!

7. DEMI-MONDAINE – (This is from p.58 of a book called The Love & Wars of Lina Prokofiev)

It means: A kept mistress of society men; shady section of a profession or group; a class of women in an unrespectable social position.

And here’s how it’s used:

“In her first letters from Paris to Serge (Prokofiev), Lina mentions fraternizing with the nineteen year old demimondaine Alice Prin, nicknamed ‘Kiki de Montparnasse.’”

The book gives a very interesting insight into something of the politics & manoeuvrings in the world of classical music composers and the Russian government. Despite Lina’s parents being a Russian-born soprano and a Spanish tenor she does not seemed to have inherited their vocal gift to quite the same degree. She was certainly a singer of merit but never quite reached the pinnacle of her profession and seemed to miss out on crucial roles. Even Prokoviev himself could not emulate the slightly older Stravinsky and although his rivalry with Rachmaninoff, some said, proved he was a better composer he remained less popular than him. Perhaps his most widely known piece is Peter and the Wolf in which Peter is represented by the strings and the wolf by the horns; other instruments represent other animals: the flute a bird, the oboe a duck, the clarinet a cat, the bassoon a grandfather and the woodwind section the hunters.

8. CHIAROSCURO – (This is from Loc 4003 of 5004 in Kindle book – Samuel F. B. Morse (His Letters and Journals))

It means: A painting in black & white; Effects of light & shade or variety & contrast

And here’s how it’s used:

“The story is not told; the figures are not grouped but huddled together; they are not well-drawn individually; the character is vulgar and tame; there is not taste in the disposal of the drapery and ornaments, no effect of chiaroscuro.”

In case you’re wondering about the name, it really is the Morse who invented the Morse code. However Samuel Findley Breese Morse started life as a portrait painter and spent many years doing just that. Born in 1791, he was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1811 but did not develop the Morse Code until into his forties.

9. INELUCTABLY(This is from p.269 of The Love & Wars of Lina Prokofiev)

It means: Not able to be escaped from or avoided

And here’s how it’s used:

“The accounts of women who knew Lina in the camps are ineluctably confused with dates and events overlapping.”

The reference to ‘camps’ here is because Lina Prokofiev was sent to prison (the Gulags), on fabricated charges, for what turned out to be 8 years (after having been sentenced to 20 years). She was incarcerated in various “camps” (for example, Inta, Abez, Yava, Potma) and it is believed only her Christian Science beliefs helped her endure the terrible physical and mental conditions she experienced there. She was released in June 1956 having been helped in her appeal by one of her husband’s rivals – the composer Shostakovich. (Prokofiev himself had died in 1953.) She was finally able to emigrate from Russia in 1974 and settled in England. She died in London, in 1989, aged 91.

10. STERTOROUSLY – (This is from p.193 of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell)

It means: With a snoring sound

And here’s how it’s used:

“She sat up very late, sewing, and when at length she did go upstairs she found him lying on his back, partly undressed on the outside of the bedclothes, with his mouth wide open, breathing stertorously.”

This is a weighty tome at just short of 600 pages set in about 1906. Although obviously allegorical it pointedly uses quite ordinary names for the workers: Owen, Philpot, Barrington, Easton, Sawkins etc. However the bosses, companies and other important officials of town council of Mugsborough get such names as: Rushton, Crass, Slyme, Dauber & Botchit, Makehaste & Sloggit, Bluffem & Doemdown, Snatcher & Graball, Smeariton & Leavit; even some of the ladies are given disparaging ‘names’ like Mrs M. T. Head, Mrs Knobrane & Mrs Starvem. You get the idea.

And finally:

In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called “Politics and the English Language”. In it he highlighted something very relevant to writers and politicians. I’d like to finish with his quote:

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”



Good morning everyone. Today is quite a significant day in my blogging career. It’s half way to 800. It’s two times 200. It’s one more than 399 and one less than 401. Not guessed it yet? Well, let me tell you.

It’s my 400th post today!

Now you’re either thinking one of two things about this fact.

1. Wow, that’s impressive. What a lot of interesting things she has to say.

2. Omygoodness, that’s a lot of nonsense.

To mark the occasion, I debated a few different possibilities. The favourite amongst my friends was to stuff 400 mini marshmallows in my mouth and photograph it. As I am sadly lacking in mini marshmallows and the shops open late on Sundays, I shall have to shelf that idea until it’s time for another significant post, 500 maybe?

The next idea was do something with 400 of my worms, I’m not sure what. Put them on a plate and photograph them maybe? But as the worms have only just been put in their new home (a proper worm bin as opposed to their previous home, a saucepan) and they were very naughty before then, I feel they need a bit longer on the naughty step before being allowed to join in the blogging fun. Honestly, it’s like having hundreds of naughty little schoolchildren. I’m like a babysitter. The other night I came home from an evening out and they had escaped and were everywhere – the kitchen floor, the outside toilet, the garden, some were even hiding inside the mop. Naughty worms.

I thought about climbing 400 steps but I’m quite comfy here on the sofa.

I thought about drinking 400 cups of tea but I’ve heard that you can drown yourself if you drink more than 26 in a day.

I thought about reading a page from 400 different books but it’s my first day at Ham House today so time is limited.

So I thought I’d refashion a post I did ages ago, called Things I Have Learned. For the following to make sense, you’re best reading the original first. And, if I’m clever, I’ll make it exactly 400 words. Look, it’s Sunday morning and it’s the best I can offer. Get over it.

Here goes…

1. My post is never as big as I think it is (or rather, ‘hope’ as I look longingly at other blogs and their posts filled with wisdom and then at my little silly ones about Taylor Swift).

2. Most people are a little bit bored by blogs about how to blog. As a new blogger, I lapped them up. Now I’m not really so keen. I don’t get anything about the blogger in these ‘advice’ blogs.

3. People like to shorten words (e.g. ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘NaBloPoMo’ or ‘NeeNorNeeNor’)

4. Missing a typo is horrible. Especially if the typo is talking about someone you did yesterday instead of something.

5. Writing a post that people notice is a fine art.

6. Most bloggers thrive off the drama in their lives. Cause then they can blog it.

7. Blogging makes you feel better.

8. Sometimes, blogging all your problems is the worst thing you can do.

9. Making your own chicken stock is more trouble than it’s worth. (No, I know this doesn’t relate to blogging but it’s still a fact.)

10. If you can’t make it good, don’t post it. Save it til later and sort it out then.

O! And one more…

11. Denying the existence of a rubbish post doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Umm. It’s not 400 words. It’s way more. O well. Shoot me.

Search terms 7

You can never have too many of these posts, I feel. The wierd and wonderful world of search terms never fails to keep me entertained.

I’m especially glad that the person searching for PJ and Duncan arrived here, less so about the person looking up a certain type of person from Cockermouth….

woolton quarry tunnel entrance
swim gods
high street highgate pharmacy coleridge
george michael address highgate
cooking mahi mahi waitrose
longitude of arnamurchan point
george michael highgate address
bognor regis 2p machine
what album did karen carpenter do
buses stop gavestone
why do i say things twice
donald duck dog truffle
kingston rejected me
henry neumann salt miner northwich
king richard iii big yellow taxi
loose women photos an captions kingston university interview experience
kate moss highgate grove
why is queen’s wood in highgate so dark
coffee-traffle butter
my first bikram class
portmanteau sanskrit words example
hairy girls au naturel
phrase “can i have a word”
slags from cockermouth
pj & duncan songs wrapping
tomtom saltside-admin
asparagus disease
old age hobbies
how does the salt museum in northwich operate
girelephant the croods
confit rabbit roux
dying duvet cover indoors
anderton boat lift old pics
kate moss highgate
steps on how to build a igloo out of snow
contested subcontinental atea
all about being sporty
truffle pasta nottingham
rock salt museum in northwich
+transvestite captions
the grove highgate history
hide and seek playroom
did jim morrison visit glastonbury
books you don’t want to end
one direction diffrent sunglasess
هرام ينسيكادنادينوت strawberry field woolton
does du cane court look like a swastika
“evening in venice” face cream
store wellingtons upside down
freehold covenants revision
“sandy denny” cadences
michel roux confit rabbit
audrey hepburn swimming in the tiburn
do all race walkers cheat
worst landlord ever
what does the wich mean in northwich
photographs of cyclist falling off bike
aldous huxley supermarket
ex-unitate curaque fortior

Three-word days

Good morning everyone. Today my guest blogger has an interesting new spin on diary-keeping. Enjoy!

I wonder if you’ve ever tried to keep a diary. Perhaps you have or maybe you still do. If you can make it a habit it’s a great source of reflections on your life and what happened in it at a particular time. Many years ago I did keep a diary for a couple of years and then more recently did it for just one year. It’s hard to keep it going though. Perhaps you’ve done a holiday diary for say a week or 2 weeks. Again I’ve done that where you not only write but stick in the pages all sorts of bits like tickets or leaflets about the things you did or visited. However I wonder if you’ve ever thought of maybe recording just one event for the day, one thing which stood out. There is a radio prog here in the UK on national radio in which people are invited to write/text/email in with their day summaries but it can only be 3 words. Yes that’s right only 3 words. Now of course it’s well nigh impossible to write a summary of your day in three words so people pick one thing which for them made the day special or different or just one thing they want to remember for that particular day. It might even be an opinion on something in the news.

Here are just 3 examples of the many which are read out. You can see the kinds of things people send in, for each day. These were sent in to the programmes from last week. Each one is from a different person and they read them out at various times during the 2 hour prog:


Mon – 1. No snow here 2. Single yet again 3. Panic bought chocolate

Tue – 1. Freezing fingers off 2. Ready for bed 3. Scandinavia is laughing

Wed – 1. Four large cookies 2. Still in pyjamas 3. Cruciate ligament snapped

Thu – 1. Hernia op success 2. Good riddance snow 3. Regretting yesterday’s curry


I think you get the idea.

Here are my recent 3-word days:

Mon 21.1.13 – Off work today

Tue 22.1.13 – Thirteen hour shift

Wed 23.1.13 – Slept in late

Thu 24.1.13 – Saw Les Miserables

Fri 25.1.13 – Changed bed linen

Sat 26.1.13 – Helen Shapiro concert

Sun 27.1.13 – Snow almost gone

Mon 28.1.13 – Projector fault investigated

Also I have some from a couple of years ago:

Wed 10.11.10 Contact Buchter News

Thu 11.11.10 Windy night Blackpool

Thu 18.11.10 Hospital, needle, arm

Mon 22.11.10 Donation, anonymity, accepted

Tue 23.11.10 Happy faces Luderitz

Wed 24.11.10    Cheques in post


Why don’t you give it a try? You might be surprised as you look back on those brief words for each day. It’s much easier & quicker than the full diary thing and keeps just a thought for the day for you to remember. It can be a challenge but I think you might enjoy doing it so have a go and see how you get on. Then why don’t you do a reply sending your 3-word summary for the day you are reading this or maybe do it for a week and send the whole seven days in a reply next week – (that would still only be 21 words).

What’s UP?

It’s Wednesday and time for my regular guest Blogger to take over while I have a day off. Enjoy.

If someone says those two words to you how do you answer? I suppose it depends on what you think they mean? Do you interpret them as someone who is caring about your situation and wants to put an arm round you to comfort you? Or do you maybe see them as a kind of rebuke in which someone is trying to ask why you apparently can’t do something they thought you should be able to do? It’s all in the intonation of the voice as the words are spoken isn’t it?

Today I’m using these words a different way – to ask what is the word UP all about. In its basic sense it means “toward a higher place or state”. It’s the opposite of down. Let’s look at some of the many ways the word UP has come to be used and maybe ask yourself why when, in many cases, it could quite simply be left out:

1. Why do we wake UP?

2. At a meeting why does a subject come UP?

3. Why do we say to people, “Speak UP”?

4. Why are candidates UP for election and elected officials UP for re-election?

5. Why is it UP to someone to write UP a report on a meeting?

6. Why do we call UP (or ring UP) our friends?

7. Why do we say that we can brighten UP a room?

8. Why do we polish UP something (table, car, silver)?

9. Why do we warm UP leftover food and clean UP the kitchen?

10. Why do we lock UP the house?

11. Why do people fix UP an old car or machinery?

12. We say people stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite & think UP excuses

13. We say to be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is something special

14. Confusingly we say that a drain had to be opened UP because it had got blocked UP.

15. Why do we open UP a shop in the morning & close it UP at night?

16. Why do we move UP in a queue or sidle UP to someone when we are moving horizontally?

17. Why do we call a raid on a shop a hold UP or a stick UP?

18. Why do we fill UP the tank in our car with petrol/gas when we could just fill it?

19. When the sun comes out, after bad weather, we say it is clearing UP

20. Why do we often call a cooked breakfast a fry UP? And get told to eat UP our food?

21. Why do we brush UP on our knowledge of a subject?

22. Why can we sit UP when we’re actually sitting down?

23. Why can we look something UP in a book when we’re looking down at it?

24. Why do we drive UP the road or lane (or even the wall)?

25. Why do we dig UP plants/flowers in our garden when we’re obviously digging down?

In many, but not all, of those examples it is just as easy to miss the “UP” out and the meaning is still clear. We can just as easily “wake” as “wake up”, “warm” food as “warm up” food and so on.

I suppose you could say that we’re a bit mixed UP about UP. It takes UP a lot of space in a dictionary definition. If you’re UP to it you can try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will, though, take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with lots more than just the few I’ve given. Have a think of more examples as there must be many more than the 25 I’ve given.

I could go on and but I’ll wrap it UP now because my time is UP and it’s time to shut UP!

As I collected the different meanings I put them into a Word document so I could save them. And you know what I called the file don’t you? – “What’s UP.doc”. Now tell me what was that rabbit’s name again?

So then, what’s UP? – I’ll let you decide.

10 words

Rambler5319 is taking over for a bit of Wondrous Words Wednesday… Enjoy…


I’m a bit like the person who drives along a road and sees a sign to somewhere (or something) off to the left or to the right and, if I have time, I just have to go and investigate. If I come across a building with something interesting on the outside (a date stone or design feature) I just want to know more about it: When was it built? Why was it built? Who built it? And so on.

This week I thought I’d take a brief delve into my “word” book. I’ve mentioned before that when I’m reading and I come across a word I don’t know I write it down in a notebook and then go and look it up (31.10.12).

I passed the 800 mark recently and so I’m going to have a look at 10 of the more recent words that have gone into the book. See what you make of them; ask yourself whether you think you’re ever likely to use them. The meanings given below come from my Chambers Dictionary and may not always tally exactly with the way the writer uses them.

Here goes:

1. SCROFULOUS – (This is from p.242 in a book called Map Addict by Mike Parker.)

It means: Tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck (also called King’s Evil).

And here’s how it’s used:

“In scrofulous slums around Cheapside, for centuries the capital’s main commercial thoroughfare, one of the Maiden Lanes sat bang opposite Lad Lane: left for a girl, right for a boy”.

2. SAPONIFYING – (This is from p.722 in a book called The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel.)

It means: Turning into or forming soap.

And here’s how it’s used:

“She found a flattish rock, carried it closer to the pool in the small river and then with another round stone, she pounded the foamy saponifying ingredients from the soaproots on it, mixed with a little water.”

3. MANTICORA – (This is from p.210 a book called Map Addict by Mike Parker.)

It means: A fabulous animal – it has the body of lion, tail of a scorpion, porcupine quills and human head.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Nearby are a manticora with the body of a lion, face of a man, and tail of a scorpion, a Minotaur, dragons, giants & pygmies.”

Good that the book explains the term. However it doesn’t mention the porcupine quills which the dictionary does so not sure which is the definitive. Anyone out there an expert on manticoras? (Is that actually the correct plural form? Does it follow the data/data or gala/galas sing/plural forms?)

4. NUTATION – (This is from p.150 in a book called Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler.)

It has a few meanings: 1. A nodding 2. A fluctuation in the precessional movement of the Earth’s pole about the pole of the ecliptic 3. The sweeping out of a curve by the tip of a growing axis or 4. The periodic variation of the inclination of the axis of a spinning top to the vertical.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Yes, the scientific terms are precession and nutation, Max lectured.” The author then goes on to explain the term himself but it’s one I’d not come across before. The book is another Dirk Pitt novel and a great story.

5. COSTIVE – (This is from p.45 in a book called The Elizabethans by A.N. Wilson.)

It means: Constipated, stingy

And here’s how it’s used:

Costive, devious, patient, the master of detail, all but humourless, and dependably sensible, William Cecil was the lynchpin of Elizabeth’s administration.”

6. Smörgåsbord – (This is from the cover notes for the 2012 CD by Van Morrison Born To Sing: No Plan B on Exile Records.) I’ve left this one lower case as it’s easier to see the Swedish accents on the letters that way.

It means: A Swedish style table assortment of hors d’oeuvres and many other dishes to which you can help yourself

And here’s how it’s used:

Quoted in Alan Light’s review of the CD quoting Van Morrison himself: “I don’t think in terms of labels,” he says. “It’s a mix of all of it, a smörgåsbord of all music and all my influences, and you hope that it comes out as something new.”

7.PANEMONE – (This is from p255 in a book called Bring Me Sunshine by Charlie Connelly)

It means: A windmill device where the blades move in the same direction as the wind as opposed to 90 degrees on an ordinary windmill. (I suppose you could liken it to the way a waterwheel is turned by a river or stream where the stream is the wind and the sails on the mill stick out rather than being flat on the arms which hold them.)

And here’s how it’s used:

“They are called panemone windmills and were originally used for pumping water and eventually to help grind corn.”

8.LEITMOTIV (or LEITMOTIF) – (This is from p12 in a book called And Now On Radio 4 by Simon Elmes)

It means: 1. (In opera, etc) a musical theme associated with a person or a thought, recurring when the person appears on the stage or the thought becomes prominent in the action. Or 2. A recurring theme in literature

And here’s how it’s used:

“It’s a paradox that will run like a leitmotivthroughout this book, but there’s another refrain which it’s also worth singing out loud right from the start:……”

9.RHABDOMANCY – (This is from p45 in a book called God Delivers by Derek Thomas)

It means: Throwing sticks in the air to see how they fall; divination by rod, wand or staff.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Three types are mentioned in Ezekial (Ch) 21:rhabdomancy throwing sticks or bones in the air to see which way they fell; hepatoscopy: examining the markings on the liver of a sacrifice and idolatry: consulting images.” It’s good the author explains the term which is helpful but one I’d never come across before.

10. SCRIMSHAW – (This is from p184 in a book called The Wreckers by Bella Bathurst)

It means: A form of engraving

And here’s how it’s used:

“Teeth could be decorated with scrimshaw (a form of engraving considered no more than an old whaler’s novelty until recently, but now beginning to command high prices among collectors).” In this particular case the writer actually explains what the word means in the text and provides more info than the dictionary. Well done Bella!

So there you go, just 10 of the 800+ words in my book.

Why not let me know if you already knew any of these or if you manage to use any of them over the next week or so?

Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)