Daily Archives: December 15, 2008


A word you could almost say while swallowing. Come, take a good drink: nognognognog… Naturally, for most people, this word goes neatly with egg. It doesn’t hurt that it rhymes with grog, sounds a bit like glögg and may seem like a condensation of nutmeg. Ah, those guzzling, glugging g‘s – whether from glass, mug or jug, have a big swig and try not to gurgle. On the other hand, if you think this word sounds like a wedding of knob and peg, it so happens that it’s also a word for a cylindrical piece of wood. That version of the word, however, comes from knag or knagge, meaning a short spur from a tree trunk or branch – the k gave a suitable snag. There’s also a South African nog, which is short for nogal (stress on the second syllable), which means “what’s more” or “besides,” but the g in this case is a voiceless velar fricative, and it has nothing to do with drinks, nogal. The nog we drink is another thing… among other things, it’s not clear where it comes from. Oh, we had an idea, you know, but that was last night at the party, and no one wrote it down… Um, it may have something to do with noggin, a small drinking vessel or measure, but no one knows where that’s from either… It might be related to the northern Scottish nugg, which is ale warmed with a hot poker, and that in turn might be related to knag (see above)… or not. Or maybe it’s related to Norwegian nugge, “nudge” (what they do to you to see if you’ve had too much? probably not). One thing’s for sure: nog originally, and still in some parts of England (e.g., Norfolk), is strong ale. So we know that eggnog is supposed to have alcohol in it – if you left the rum or brandy out, you’d be unhistorically abstemious, and participating in yet another meaning shift, nog.