Category Archives: new old words


This word has a very satisfying sound, I think. Like something that fits neatly being slotted in just right, or a nice bit of mechanics tightly machined and working to perfection. A key fitting in a lock. A catch clicking in its notch. A door closing smoothly and tightly. Or perhaps the sound of a block of cheese or soap being cut in a perfect diagonal slice. It starts with the crisp click-slide of “ch” and after a short vowel pushes the cushion of the nasal “n” to the tongue-tip stop “t.” Tidy. Complete. Satisfying. Continue reading


So. You know scoundrel and wastrel and custrel (well, maybe you don’t know that one) and kestrel and even doggerel. There’s this –rel suffix that English got from French–ereau and –erelle, and we use it for diminutive derivatives, especially pejorative ones. It sounds sort of like throat-hawking in another room, or a car peeling out on a gravel road nearby, or the faint echo of someone having been thrown in a well.

But pynt? What is that? Well, it’s an old spelling for paint or pint or pained or point. But which is it here?

Yes. Continue reading


There’s a certain type of person I’ve always been fascinnoyed with (you know, simultaneously fascinated and annoyed): a person who makes a point of letting you know that they don’t know about something. A kind of one-downer. A stronteur. Continue reading


The ice giants have swept into town riding on their howling wind-wolves, and the air and ground are so iron-hard that if the cold kills you, no one can shovel; they will bury you in midair.

The ice giants want to kill you. The wolves want to bite you and the giants want to stab you in the face, over and over.

And they do. Even if the wolves do not manage to give you frostbite, the giants will give you blawdurk. The weather may seem almost tolerable, the air just ice-glass, crisp and clear, scratched here and there by small diamonds of frost, but then you will turn a corner and the breeze will put a dagger into your cheek, your brow, your eyelid, your eye. It is that boreal pain: no tropical denizen, however much they may be sun-broiled, will get from the weather a hard-iron agony within the span of three breaths. The ice giants test your mettle by testing their metal: daggers of icy gusts, blawdurk.

What is this word blawdurk, how has it been blown together? Check your Scots dictionary: blaw means ‘gust, blowing’, and similar things; durk means ‘dirk’ or ‘dagger’ – a small dagger formerly often carried, and not just by ice giants. When you turn that corner and the daggers of ice slam into your face, this is blawdurk.

Well, we needed a word for it, didn’t we? I decided we did after experiencing the good old Canadian face pain today. I took these two bits from Scots and froze them together to make a new old word. If you have a different term for it, well, that’s fine too.


Reading: lexemia

I’m making the audio version of my note on lexemia available to everyone… as an enticement to subscribe, of course. Stop by and listen to it there.



Look at this word. Just look at it. You just have to love it, don’t you? It’s long. It’s German. It must mean something that English speakers wish they had a word for. Continue reading


Does cutchyrun sound like someone who might cut and run? Perhaps it’s more like someone you would prefer to cut and run from. It’s not a cushy role to play, that’s for sure, and I don’t know whether it’s really something that’s catching.

A cutchyrun is one of the world’s Charlotte Bartletts (for those familiar with A Room with a View) – specifically in the sense that they always say “Don’t trouble yourself” or “Don’t stand on ceremony” when you know damn well that they will be quietly but tangibly disappointed if you don’t; they always say “It’s no problem at all” and they never complain but somehow you just know that it’s truly the most grievous problem, whatever it is you’re asking. Continue reading