Category Archives: word tasting notes

brae

I tend to think of this word as one of the bits sliding about in the widget drawer from which developers pull pieces for names of neighbourhoods. It’s jumbled in with wood and cliff and cedar and side and bine and land and thorn and lea and crest and vale and ridge and maple and oak and glen and bank and fair and field and gate and ville and dale and hill and park and mead and view and bay and green and hurst and may and mount and summer and sunny and land… Every time you’re building a new neighbourhood, if you don’t want to go ahead and name it after whatever you bulldozed to build it, just reach into that drawer and grab two pieces. If you want to make it extra chi-chi, grab a third piece – or just tack heights on. Continue reading

vexeme

We all have our pet peeves. Some of us have many and some have few; some of us have bigger ones and some have smaller ones. Some people have pet peeves like leashed Rottweilers that precede them in all situations (the worst grammar grumblers can be like this), but for most of us, they are more like purse dogs, easy enough to carry around and produce as needed – almost cute, even, though they might make a mess on your wallet. For many of us, though, they’re not even pets so much as little flags we take out and wave at certain moments, kind of like sports fans. Continue reading

squeevaporate

Listen to the audio of this if you prefer! I make audio versions of all my articles; they’re available for $2-a-month subscribers on Patreon. But this one is here free for everyone:

A few days ago, Julie Nathanson (@Julie_Nathanson) – who I knew back when I was at Tufts University and now follow on Twitter – tweeted, “What’s the word for finally speaking with one of your heroes for the first time and then transmogrifying into floaty, glowing vapor?” Continue reading

fulculency

I’ve dipped into the Dictionary of Archaic Words again, sorted through its starchy heaps of lexical refuse, all those old words the language has left behind like so much dried paste. Some of them are quite quaint and charming. Some of them have a kind of…

Well, look at this one: fulculency. The definition given isn’t even a definition, it’s just a citation: “Dreggie refuse and fulculencie,” a quote that it cites to page 41 of Topsell’s Serpents, a reference I easily followed to Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents, a classic work from 1658 that is, for your enjoyment, available online. Continue reading

fyke-fack

If this sounds like something someone from Scotland might say when having to do a lot of boring busywork for some pernickety pest, well, yes. But it’s not an expletive. It’s a word for the tedious trivial tasks themselves, or, as a verb, for busying oneself about them. Here’s a citation:

Yet after a’, wi’ this fyke-fack an’ that fyke-fack, this thing an’ the tither thing, it cost me tippence or thretty pennies by the time I got without the port.

Continue reading

dinkum

January 26 is Australia Day.

If you’re fair dinkum, you knew that five minutes after you were born. If you’re anyone else, though, count it as fair warning. Continue reading

Tartuffe

The other evening I saw a splendid production at Canadian Stage of one of the great plays of the French theatre: Tartuffe, by Molière. It was in an excellent modern English version and a staging that happily and effectively made the play as current to our eyes as it had been to the eyes of its original audience in 1664. Continue reading