nytel

You ever have one of those days where you spend all your time faffing about, trying different things with various degrees of disaster and disappointment, and at the end of the day you’ve accomplished jactiate? Just nothing real to show for it at all, and plus in addition as well too also you feel kind of bad and beaten?

Oh.

Well, aside from today, and yesterday, and… um, you ever have more than five days in a week like that?

Of course there’s a word for it. It’s not a German word, either, though it’s not really a modern English word. It was used back in the Middle English period, and the spelling hasn’t been updated since then because people haven’t been using it. So it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary as nytel. That looks like it should be said to rhyme with Keitel or, um, buy sell or something, but it’s safer to assume that it rhymes with little, and if it had been in regular use between now and then it would probably be spelled nittle or nittel.

Where does it come from? It’s not entirely certain, because the paper trail for its usage is, um, exiguous, and many hours of research would likely be so much nyteling (or nittling), but the best speculation is that it’s from nite- ‘not know’, which is from ne ‘not’ plus wit ‘know’ (as in unwitting), and then the -le suffix that indicates repeated action, as in crackle, sparkle, and so on. So just as sparkle means ‘spark a whole bunch over a period of time’, nytel thus means ‘be unwitting a whole bunch over a period of time’. In other words, ‘be clueless a lot for a while’. 

Which… sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?

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