Daily Archives: April 2, 2018


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb chork means “To make the noise which the feet do when the shoes are full of water.”

There are four things I’d like to address about this:

a) This is a perfect word for that sense, and that’s a perfect sense for this word.

b) No, I’m not pulling your leg. It’s not April Fool’s anymore. My Dark Tongue of Mordor pronunciation tip was my nod to that day of silliness.

c) Does that definition seem somehow… just a little less dictionary-ish than the usual?

d) Oxford says it’s now Scottish English.

To address those one by one:

a) I don’t really mean the written form of the word, though have a look at it, there’s something possibly boot-like in its near-symmetry with the high stems, and something squelchish in the contrast of the ch at the front with the k at the back. No, though, it’s the sound: the affricated onset “ch” that already suggests friction or fluid motion of some sort, and the curling messy undignified wet-rubbery “or” stopping at hard “k” as the foot stops up against the boot. The word as a whole sloshes from the tip of the tongue back through the mouth to the velum. It has echoes of other words, but none of them would complete the sound impression: cork, chuck, chore, soak, choke, lurk, chug… This is a word both phonaesthematic and onomatopoeic.

b) Seriously, I just stumbled on this word today, like forty minutes ago as I was surfing the OED for something to taste. It’s for realz. But if I were pulling your leg, I would be pulling it into a wet rubber boot. And I mean wet on the inside. Which, given that it’s early April, is a likely thing, at least around where I live.

c) I think there are a few things that make it more like a thing an ordinary person says and less like the usual dictionary register. For one, “make the noise” is rather more peevish in tone than “make a sound.” For another, why “which the feet do” and not “which the feet make” or just “of the feet” (or “of a foot in a shoe full of water”)? For a third, yes, “when the shoes are full of water,” because not “if” but “when” AW COME ON DO YOU HAVE TO RUB IT IN yes it’s inevitable, when.

d) You can still use it. Honestly, see (a): it’s perfect. Context will tell. If someone accuses you of making it up, you can tell them it’s been around for more than 500 years – probably a lot more, because shoes full of water have existed for at least as long as the English people have had shoes, but the first sighting was in the 1400s. And now it is April and now it is chorking time again. So if you want to use it but you are getting cold feet, THAT’S WHY TO USE IT, BECAUSE YOUR FEET ARE COLD BECAUSE THEY’RE CHORKING AND IT’S APRIL THE THIRD AND IT’S BUCKETING DOWN THE FULL NOAH AND YOUR SHOES HAVE CHUCKED IT IN. Chork chork chork.