hoard, horde, whored

They’re taking down the hoarding in front of the Sony Centre, across the street from where I live. That’s nice – for so long it felt as though they were hoarding it to themselves. Soon, renovations done, they will open their hoard to the hordes who will come to see acts from the hortatory to the hoary. Some may accuse the artists who play such a cavernous space of having whored themselves, sacrificing art for cash. But who’re they to criticize who work uninspiring day jobs just to earn the pay to see someone else’s output? Well, let them make themselves hoarse preaching “with a little hoard of maxims,” as Tennyson put it in “Locksley Hall”; their end would be the state Tennyson described in “Don Juan”: “Society is now one polish’d horde, Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.”

Hoard, horde, whored… These words are tolerable in British accents that drop the /r/, starting with a light breath and then holding on a lax mid-back rounded vowel until the final voiced stop. But in North American English generally, they come too close to what is sometimes called “throat hawking,” that thing one does to produce a “loogie.” The tongue is raised at the back and curled up at the front, and the /d/ is the saving grace, keeping it from burying in the back.

But that pulling back and gathering in, that curling and bunching, at least may seem to have some iconicity with respect to the sense of the words: the retentiveness of hoard, the clannishness of horde, the dim bedchambers and clandestine involvements of whored. There’s no particular reason to think the words came about because of this, but it may or may not have helped their persistence. In any event, their sources are separate. Hoard is from a Teutonic word for “treasure”; horde is from a Turki word, orda, meaning “camp”, which also gave us Urdu, the name of a language; whored is from whore, of course, which in turn came from an old Germanic word for “adultery” – and whore is a word that never had a pronounced /w/ (the w was added to the spelling rather late) and that is also often pronounced with the vowel as /u/ or /U/, and a word that has a common root, back in Proto-Indo-European, with charity, which really is ironic, isn’t it?

I should add, too, that hoarding is from another word hoard that came about as a reanalysis of hurdis (taking it for a plural), which in turn comes from Latin and French words for “palisade”. As for hoary, it comes from hoar (as in hoar frost), which refers to grey hair but comes from a Germanic root meaning “old” and “venerable”.

We find, indeed, that this simple sound string gives us quite a hoard of words – even, perhaps, metaphorically, a horde, except that the words do not form a clan per se, not being related. But perhaps a horde need not be seen as related; after all, horde shows up most often with media (as in the media horde or a horde of media) – the rough and bunchy sound, redolent of hairy sorts on horses screaming themselves hoarse, seems apt for the muddled huddle of paparazzi and assorted reporters. But it also shows up with Golden – the Golden Horde were central Asian conquerors of the 1200s – and thus we have a link with hoard, as gold and (more especially) cash are the two things most often spoken of with hoard. And no doubt we have heard on occasion of the sterotype of a “whore with a heart of gold” – but that’s not as common a usage, and the past tense verb, whored, is much less common and does not have any usual golden collocation.

But now I feel that I have reached my maximum, and I hope that you are not of the tribe of the bored.

Thanks to Gabriel Cooper for suggesting hoard, horde, and whored.

One response to “hoard, horde, whored

  1. … whore is a word that … has a common root, back in Proto-Indo-European, with charity

    I wonder if Neil Simon knew that when he renamed Federico Fellini’s character “Cabiria Ceccarelli” in his (and Cy Coleman’s and Dorothy Fields’s) Broadway musical Sweet Charity.

    The Cabiria character was (what one Wikipedia writer calls) “an ever-hopeful prostitute”; however, Charity was changed to a “dancer-for-hire” (“I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money…”), presumably to cater to the U.S.’s Broadway’s, um, ‘more refined’ tastes.

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