Tag Archives: word tasting notes


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


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


I was just flipping through my paperback abridgement of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, as one does on a leisurely Sunday evening, and I happened on this stub of a word: sprunt.

Well, now. What could it was? It starts with the spr that we see in spring and sprinkle and spruce and sprain and sprawl, and it ends with the unt that we see in hunt and shunt and bunt and punt and runt. The word as a whole looks like an irregular past participle of sprint – as in I sprint, I sprant, I have sprunt. There are several ways it could go. Or, of course, the meaning could be entirely unrelated to what it sounds like it means, although with two sound clusters that have vivid associations, that’s not so likely; even if it started out unrelated, the sense would tend to drift towards what people think it should mean. Continue reading


We use words to spin many a yarn. But a word, in turn, spins yarns around it: all the uses and places and users and senses it’s had, wound or twisted or balled up and ready to be ravelled for revelry or pulled piecemeal for prose. Even the way it’s balled up can be different from time to time, not always telling a true tale of where it came from, and the same word for the same meaning and function can have different shapes over time, some plain for function, some fancy for curiosity or to show ingenuity and splendour. A word is in this way a yarringle, and yarringle is such a word. Continue reading


“My name is Legion, for I am many.”

I first read that when I was a child. I wondered how it could make sense. For one thing, in the little town I lived in, there was only one Legion. Continue reading

ballicatter, frore

As one does on a cold evening in early winter, I have slid my copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, second edition, off the shelf, looking for some nice words from a worse climate to warm me up.

It has not disappointed. Look at this lovely sentence it adduces for a citation:

I wasn’t frost-burned. My mitts were frore onto my hands. My face was frore, my collars was frore an’ everything was ballicattered.

Continue reading

snizy and snod words

Snow is snowing in this snizy season, even when you are out visiting. Be the house and the company ever so snod, and the room ever so filled with snapperdols, you will sooner or later have to snabble your snacks and slip out into the snivy snizeler, and soon enough you will snuist and snite a snevit until at last you can sneak into your own snug, snaste the candle, snerdle with your snugglebunny, and snouse… and hopefully not snuzzle. Continue reading