Category Archives: word tasting notes


It’s time for another fresh old word from James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic Words. And it’s a word for spring.

In fact, it’s a word for springing, For sproinging. Even for spronging. It’s for someone or something who’s spring-fresh, even frightfully so, like the friskiest fry or some other friendly tyke. Continue reading


Spring is here, and everything is spurking up.

Does spurk seem like a word I just invented? It… sort of is, but it’s not. I wondered if it existed, so I looked, and it does. It has been in English for more than three centuries, though no one seems to use it these days.

And what would you suppose it means? Continue reading


What are they flutter among the flowers and among the cinders? Flinders. Do they flit towards the flames in fascination? Or flap between blossoms and flowing bowers? Are they grey as dust and smoke? Or vivid, resplendent, variegated, as monarchs and iridescent metalmarks? All are leaping and dropping lepidoptera, each one a flinder. Continue reading


According to Slanguage: A Dictionary of Irish Slang, by Bernard Share, pickering – in colloquial Irish English – means “Expressing amorous interest in.” Sort of like hankering, I guess, but more… picky? Peckish? Share doesn’t give an etymology.

But it puts me in mind of a story. Not an Irish one, a Northern English one, but anyway.

There was this king. I don’t know which one, but he was in Northern England for some reason, Yorkshire to be precise, North Yorkshire to be preciser, Ryedale to be preciserer. Anyway, he had a fancy. Probably he had more than one fancy, but he had a fancy ring, that’s for sure, and he lost track of it. It came off his finger, as rings may, depending on what you’re doing.

So he blamed a local maiden. Continue reading


Harry S Truman was once a haberdasher.

So I learned from a book in my childhood. The president with the ornamental S snaking in the middle of his name like a cloth measuring tape was once a purveyor of gentlemen’s sartorial quincaillerie: bespoke four-in-hands, cufflink-and-button sets, collar studs, cut-to-measure bowties, and perhaps seersucker, gabardine, and herringbone suits. All the items, in short, for a well-turned-out gentleman in the Kansas City of 1920. And then a recession hit and his store folded like a silk pocket square. Continue reading


If you imply something, it’s implicit. If you comply with something, you’re complicit. So why don’t we say you exply something if you make it explicit? I hereby decide and declare that henceforth it shall be so. You can now say “Don’t make me guess what you mean! Just exply it!” Of course, then we’re on our way to saying replies are replicit, which I’m also fine with. And don’t say we already have explain and explicate. Look, implicate isn’t the same as imply and replicate isn’t the same as reply. And complain, complicate, and comply are three different things. Continue reading


Betwixt the dawning and the day it came
Upon me like a spell,
While tolled a distant bell,
A wondrous vision but without a name
In pomp of shining mist and shadowed flame,
Exceeding terrible;
Before me seemed to open awful Space,
And sheeted tower and spire
With forms of shrouded ’tire
Arose and beckoned with unearthly grace,
I felt a Presence though I saw no face
But the dark rolling fire.

So begins “The Beatific Vision” by Frederick William Orde Ward. Had I presented but the first line, you would have known already ’twas poesy. First line? First word, in sooth! Just as there are words that let you know you’re reading a news article (temblor, pontiff), there are words that declare poetry. Poetry! And tho this bit of rime lay ’twixt the pages of an ancient tome (well, 1927) that declared on its cover no more than “The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse” (the most mystical thing about which being how I come to have it – I think I know, but in recollection I feel a Presence but see no face), had I met it on a glowing screen I would still have known. Continue reading