Tag Archives: word tasting notes

nesh

What would you do if you looked down on your page and saw hnecxian looking back up at you?

Would you sneeze? Would you flinch? Would you soften and fade back? Or would you be fascinated by this ink-insect?

You needn’t fear. Although you have just seen it looking back at you, snuffing and snorting and crisp and vexing, whether or not you softened, it has. Hnecxian is the Old English version of the word – in its infinitive verb form. The modern English form, verb, adjective, noun, and adverb, is nesh.

Which is more reminiscent of a bug after it has been squished. Or any other soft and perhaps unwelcome thing. Continue reading

flexuous

Here’s a word that really flexes its sense. Flex what? U O U S – a set of curves countercurving, bending like barrels or ship bows, veering and careering like a river. It’s like a chart of a fluxus, deflecting and reflecting. Even your tongue, as it says it, rolls and laps like waves at the shore of your alveolar ridge. Continue reading

gazebo

What will please me more than gazing? Gazing at a lovely view, gazing at a lovely open structure with a lovely view, gazing at a lovely word for the lovely structure, gazing at a lovely etymology of the lovely word? Continue reading

–vv–

Perhaps because she was too savvy for the bovver of chivvying me with a bevvy, my friend Julie just straight-up asked if I would blog about words with double v’s. Naturally, the suggestion revved my mind up like a flivver. Continue reading

pogonosophy

Pogonotrophy is growing a beard. Pogonotomy is cutting a beard (or shaving it off altogether). Pogonology is writing about beards. And so pogonosophy is knowledge about beards – or perhaps wisdom signified (or conferred?) by a beard. Continue reading

avid, flavid, gravid, nimravid, pavid

What can take a person from avid to pavid in an instant – and not just pavid, but flavid?

I’ll back up for a moment. Avid you know, of course; it comes originally from Latin aveo ‘I crave’ (yes, that’s also the origin of avarice). But add a simple and you go from being full of piss and vinegar to peeing yourself: pavid means ‘fearful’; it comes from Latin paveo ‘I fear’ (not ‘I hit the pavement’, though that might be a consequence), which is the source of modern Italian pauro and French peur, both nouns meaning ‘fear’. Puff and flutter that in flusteration and you get flavid, which means ‘yellow’ and comes from Latin flavus (not to be confused with flavius, which means ‘yellower’ or ‘goldener’ and was apparently a good thing in Rome, as it shows up in names of numerous important people, including some emperors).

OK, so what – aside from a wanton – could take a person from avid to pavid? And what – aside from wayward pee – could make them flavid? Well, how about a gravid nimravid? Continue reading

javel

For some reason I have an open, barely used box of Javex2 (“Bleach for Unbleachables”) sitting with the other toxic household chemicals. I vaguely recall needing it a few years ago to get something clean. I guess a bit of lemon juice wouldn’t do for whatever it was.

The origin of the name Javex is pretty clear if you turn to the French side of the box (if you’re not from Canada, that may not make sense until I tell you that all packaging in Canada is in English and French, and boxes usually have an English side and a French side). There it says “Javellisant pour non-Javellisables.” French for ‘bleach’ is javellisant, or eau de Javel, or just plain old javel.

Javel! Isn’t that the villain from Les Misérables? No, no it is not, and how dare you fling mud at this fine word.

Well, you wouldn’t be the only one to fling mud at it or besmirch its character. You see, there is an English word javel that is not related to the French javel and it is not sparkling clean. Continue reading