Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Meaning: Ammunition belt, although originally it meant anything worn across the shoulder 'scarfe wise'. This leaves the hands free, hence - presumably - the popularity with mountaineers and rifleers.

Ottoman Bandolier: I'd like one. 
Logofascination: 2. Etymologically it's 'little band*'; a word that has wandered through German, Italian, Spanish and into English via French (but sometimes straight from Spanish). Its meaning shifted to ammunition container quite quickly, perhaps not surprising in 17th century Europe.

In the wild: Hardly wild, but we're still in the Viennese museum of Arms and Armour. I discovered that the gorgeous bag I was coveting was, in fact, a bandolier and have been meaning to look up the etymology ever since.

Usefulness: 3. More useful is Cotgrave's bandouillier, one who wears anything 'scarfe wise'. I do this a lot.

*not related to bandit, which is someone who is banned. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


Meaning: a horse's head-armour, or as Cotgrave has it:
the front-stall, head-peece, or forehead-piece, of a barbed horse. 
Bonus word: a horse's armour is bard(ing), although no-one's quite sure why. This has since extended to the practice of wrapping bacon around poultry when roasting; good to see a useful word so deliciously recycled.

Logofascination: 2. Partly due to the 'there's a word for everything' factor, and partly because of the wide and wild variety of the spelling. I had it written down as chanfron, and Wikipedia has chanpron, but ngrams finds that chamfron is most popular (using the word popular quite loosely) and the OED only gives us chamfron or chamfrain.

In the wild: The Viennese museum of Arms and Armour, back in 2011. I told you I hoard words; I thought it was time to get onto my back-catalogue. It also turns up in Cotgrave, who I do recommend browsing.

Usefulness: 4, unless you're writing historical fiction, or touring an armoury museum.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hook turn

Meaning: a counter-intuitive driving manoeuvre in which you turn across oncoming traffic from what feels like the wrong side of the road; in effect you join the traffic stream perpendicular to yours. Video here.

Logofascination: 4. It's a turn that looks like a hook. This word was only saved from a really boring 5 rating by functioning as a semi-shibboleth for Melbournians, and the ANDC taking so long to add it.  It's not in the Australian National Dictionary yet, but we've had electric trams (why Melbourne needs hook turns) since 1908.

In the wild: An ANDC post on the just-released seventh edition of The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary mentions some new additions, and it turns out that 'hook turn' has entered those august pages (and that I have a first edition; for some reason most people didn't think that was as cool as I did).  I'm sure the ANDC have done a better job of defining it.

Usefulness: 2. Declaiming the simplicity of the hook turn is one of the signs of a local Melbournian. You can avoid hook turns by going the long way around the block (which I did for some time) but running late in heavy traffic helps overcome any hesitations. It feels like you're crossing the streams, but after the first time they're straightforward. (No, really...)

Friday, October 4, 2013


Meaning: self-sufficiency; the k is a subtle signal that this is in the economic sense, as there is also autarchy, or self-rule, which is from entirely different origins.

Logofascination: 1.  Greek origins, spiky consonants and the possibility of political or theological confusion; what's not to like? The OED citations include these gems:

  • 1635,   H. Valentine: "It may as well stand upon its bottome, and boast an Autarchie, and selfe sufficiencie."
  • 1957,   T. S. Eliot: "A general autarky in culture simply will not work: the hope of perpetuating the culture of any country lies in communication with others."

In the wild: A pretty boring post on the apparent withdrawal to nationalism (note to markets: it doesn't work). I'm interested in economics and the free market, and I still skimmed it; that chap needs an editor to send it back asking for more jokes.

Usefulness: 2. "Want a drink / dinner / lift home?" "Nah, I'm an autarky tonight, thanks." "If the various attempts at Communism - in which I include France - have taught us anything, it is that autarky does. not. work. You may have your decorative farms on rolling hillsides, but you pay the price in riots in the quais and queues in the patisseries."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Meaning: "turning as an ox in plowing"; writing which alternates left-to-right, right-to-left, left-to-right, right-to-left, etc, etc.

Logofascination: 1. Bous- is cow (which is why Bosphorus and Oxford are, etymologically, the same place), and -strophe is turning (which is why an apostrophe takes the place of something that has been turned away.)

In the wild: Antony Green is Australia's premier psephologist*, and it's the casual use of words like 'boustrophedon' that keep him that way. (Update: boustrophedon turned up in Stan Carey's review of Shady Characters.)

Usefulness: 2. My mother used to complain of us wandering about like Brown's cows; perhaps if she'd complained of our Boustrophedonitis we'd have paid more attention.

*one of the few good things about elections; political writers love dragging this word out. 

Monday, September 30, 2013


Meaning: "places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions." Wikipedia helpfully continues: "neither here nor there." It's not in the OED yet, probably because Foucalt is totes post-modern. We all know that's dead, but aren't quite sure what to call this bit yet, so best not take him too seriously*.

Logofascination: 2 (Other-place is not that interesting etymologically, but gets points for not being in the OED.  This word is not merely in books, it's in book titles, and they haven't noticed?)

In the wild: a piece on the romance and pragmatism of the under-appreciated jetbridge. If you're a travel tragic, you'll also want to read Geoff Lemon on airports (and jetbridges) as ritual magic, or maybe even an old piece of mine on airports as liminal spaces. Yes, I wish I'd come up with heterotopia and the idea of flying as sacrament too. 

Usefulness: 2 (Discuss: airports and shopping centres should have enough otherness to make you dissociate from realities like your bank balance, but not enough to induce psychosis.)

*in my spare room, a BA just disintegrated.

If there are any of you still playing along at home, I've dusted off the cobwebs and am intending to try out some new posting formats.

I consider my Six Degrees theorem well and truly proven, but I still hoard words and would like to share them with you. I also hoard links to long-form pieces, so there'll be a bit of that snuck in along the way. Finally, my secret goal (less secret now, I suppose) of compiling an Urquhartian concordance also still exists; I'd like to try and bring you a word a week. The promise of a blogger is worth its weight in posts, so we shall see how that goes. If any of you aren't robots, (or my mother) I really would like to know what you think. (Although mum's feedback is always good too.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Live from Cromarty

In the midst of the all the not-blogging I've been doing lately, there's been a bit of travel, and I've had the great joy of spending today in Cromarty.  I'm staying in Ardyne House; from my bedroom window I can see the Sutors (headlands), which feature in Sir Thomas' encomium of Cromarty and its Firth:
I have, or at least had, before I was sequestred, a certain harbour or bay, in goodness equal to the best in the world ... promontaries on each side, vulgarly called Souters ...  ten thousand ships together may within it ride in the greatest tempest that is as in a calm; 
The Souters from Ardyne House
Sir Thomas wasn't exaggerating (well, not as much as usual): Cromarty Firth is very large. Over time it has held various Navy ships, and still holds several oil-rigs in various states of (dis)repair. Cromarty has had several booms (hemp, herring, oil), but never quite reached what Sir Thomas claimed he could do:
By which means, the foresaid town of Cromarty, for so it is called, in a very short space, would have easily become the richest of any within threescore miles thereof; 
Here are a few photos from around the village (a lovely spot in its own right); I'll eventually put together a definitive guide for the Sir Thomas pilgrimage.
Ekskybalauron engraving at the Stables

Sir Thomas in the Cromarty timeline

Sir Thomas in the Urquhart family tree,
displayed in the East Church
Common on graves in Cromarty; experts say they're symbols of death
and nothing to do with pirates, but I have my doubts...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Meaning: as the OED says "A fabulous creature, half goat, half stag." They are of course using fabulous meaning 'out of fable' but I like the ambiguity.

Usefulness: 2 (Perhaps as an insult? Unless you happen to be haunting the halls of Winchester College, of course.)

Logofascination: 2 (The name is from the Latin for billy-goat and stag; another name is the tragelaph, from the Greek for the same creatures.  The genus to which Kudu belong are called Tragelaphus for this reason.)

In the wild: Michael Quinion found it in Umberto Eco, and has written it up here, and as mentioned in both that and the Wikipedia article, the hircocervus comes to us via philosophy. Plato introduced it as an example* and Aristotle takes it further; if you have the brain-power you can read up on the goat-stag in philosophy here.  It also makes a brief appearance in my favourite passage of The Horologicon; the hircocervus is one of the midnight creatures who gather around.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Meaning: a house-guest who stays three nights or more; in times past, after the third night the host had the same legal responsibility for them as for any other member of their household.

Usefulness: 1 (I've had house-guests* almost every day this year, and they all stayed at least three nights. I wish I'd known I could have called them hoghenhines.)

Logofascination: 1 (Etymologically, it's a bastardisation of Middle English aȝen hine or oȝen hine - own servant.  There is something appealing in the notion that ancient laws held that three nights was enough to know someone. In a few word books, it has jumped from the legal responsibility for a guest - as for one of your household - to popular definitions like 'one of the family', or 'a member of one's family'.)

In the wild: Mrs Byrne lists it as agenhina, "a guest at an inn who, after having stayed for three nights, was considered one of the family". Karl Hagen does rather a good job of correcting this, although he fails to locate the source of her reference to an inn. Here we turn to historymike who quotes more of the original source than the OED does; The Country Justice says that agenhina "is used in ancient Saxon Laws for him that cometh to an Inne guest-wise".  To give Mrs Byrne her due, she traced her words to original sources wherever possible, and considering she worked on her dictionary during the 1950s and 1960s while touring as a concert pianist, I think she can be forgiven. I do wonder at Eric McKean's "a member of one's family" (Weird and Wonderful Words, 2002), although it is qualified with "chiefly in legal contexts". Even the OED adds "a member of a household; a dependant" to the definition, the semi-colons suggesting additional meanings. There are no citations for these, though, and certainly none for its use to denote a member of one's family. It seems to be one of those words whose usefulness and potential for expanded meanings appeals more to lexicographers than to the populace.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Meaning: having many gaps or hiatuses; used particularly of manuscripts.

Usefulness: 1 (If one were, say, attempting to describe an unexplained gap in blog posts, or a particularly patchy period of posting.)

Logofascination: 1 (Lacuna, meaning a gap in a manuscript - and a number of other things - is from the Latin lacūna, the diminutive of lacus, lake. From lacus we also get lagoon, originally used of pools of water around Venice - Captain Cook was the first to apply it to tropical destinations.)

In the wild: In my apology for being so terribly lacunose? Mind you, I make no rash promises of reformation, but I shall attempt to warn you of any looming lacunae. No lagoons were involved in this one, sadly.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Meaning: with a lower-case i, someone who advocates seizing territory back* from another nation or state. With a capital, a member of a 19th century Italian political party which advocated the annexation of Italian-speaking districts from surrounding nations.

Usefulness: 2 (Slightly abstruse, but you'll get points from the politically inclined. Could be useful if you were interviewing Diego Marani, who likes to discuss the attempts of nation-states to co-opt language as identity and/or delineator of borders, and the way that the EU is - possibly - undoing that. Podcast here, or interview here. He's also attempted a universal language, albeit a Euro-centric one.)

Logofascination: 2 (From the Italian for 'unredeemed', as in 'unredeemed Italy'.)

In the wild: A Washington Post blogpost on the issues with a study that supposedly mapped 'racial tolerance'.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Meaning: named or called.

Usefulness: 2 (It strikes me as a satisfyingly annoying way to ask someone's name "And what are you vocitated, old chap?" or introduce yourself: "I am occasionally vocitated as The Antipodean.")

Logofascination: 1 (The English version was invented by Sir Thomas, who is the sole citation in the OED.)

In the wild: Occasionally; someone's already taken it as a Twitter handle, worse luck.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Meaning: loudly; as if through a speaking-trumpet, or stentorophonic horn.

Usefulness: 2 (It's a bit of a mouthful, but useful if you're after something elaborate. Stentorophonic horn is rather useful as a more interesting name for hearing aids.)

Logofascination: 1 (In 1671 Sir Samuel Morland - academic, diplomat, spy, inventor and mathematician* - claims to have invented what we would call a megaphone, but he called the stentorophonic horn. Stentoriphonically appears in G&P Le Tiers-Livre in 1693, but Sir Thomas had died in 1660; this may be one of Motteux's sneaking in. Sir Thomas might well have made an allusion to Stentor, mythical source for this and stentorian, but the suffix -phonic is not quite right.**)

In the wild: No.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Meaning: resembling Mezentius, an Etruscan king exiled for cruelty (according to Virgil, anyway).

Usefulness: 1 ("An early meeting the day after a long weekend? A Mezentian idea!")

Logofascination: 1 (The OED has three citations between 1798 and 1874. The next is 1992, from Iain Banks' Crow RoadBetween Iain and Iain M. Banks, the late, lamented author has 136 citations in the OED, a number of them to do with whisky. Sadly, my favourite of his books, Transition,  seems to have been lexicographically neglected by the OED. If you're interested, the list of the words with Iain / Iain M. Banks citations is at the end of the post.)

In the wildCrow Road: "It did occur to me he could have driven the bike himself with the body lashed to his back looking like a pillion. It's a bit Mezentian, but possible."

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Meaning: Old Norse for cow dung. No, really. See also here.

Usefulness: 1. (Google tells me that there was a bit of press about this when the system first came out, but no-one told me.)

Logofascination: 1 (Etymologically related to muck and midden.  Mainly of interest to those of us residing in Melbourne; myki is our public transport ticketing system. Its problems are so notorious that there's a hashtag: #mykifail. I suppose it provides the rest of you with a usefully obscure word for cow dung; "This report is sheer myki!")

In the wild: Of all places, I found it in a post on Lancashire dialect. I'm trying to figure out where loomster comes from.

Degrees: 3

Connections: myki - muck - manurers (It's been a while since we had a word this far removed; I think this is because Sir Thomas used Scottish vernacular rather than English - muck and midden - and the influences are different.)

Which is used in: Logopandecteision. To over-simplify, Sir Thomas is arguing that you can verify how ancient his heritage is by considering that of his tenants:
both historie and the most authentick tradition we have, avoucheth the first labourers and manurers of the land to have come along with my ancestors Beltistos, Nomostor, and Lutork, and for their good service done, especially to the last of those three, received leases thereupon in the quality of yeomans, who were so well pleased with what they got that after they had most contentedly spent the best of their age, when decrepit years did summon them to pay their last due to nature, they bequeathed unto their children the hereditarie obedience they did owe their master, to whom they left their blessing and best wishes 
Manure originally just meant cultivate, but of course manuring is one of the chief activities of cultivation, particularly before modern fertilizers. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Meaning: Innermost.

Usefulness: 2 (Could lead to some confusion if used carefully, which Rabelais might have been counting on.)

Logofascination: 1 (Originating in Pantagruel, this is probably a Rabelaisian coinage, although it's from a common enough Latin root, penitus. The OED has Sir Thomas' Ekskybalauron as the sole citation, since it is the main English source. I can't help but wonder if it's in the OED to help explicate Rabelais, much as most of Cotgrave exists for that purpose.

The really fascinating thing about this word, though, is that Ekskybalauron was published before Sir Thomas' Rabelais translation - they are only a year apart, but this suggests that he was already working on the translation, and had thought about how to Anglicise this passage.)

In the wild: Besides the piece on neologism I linked to recently, it's also cited in a rather useful dissection of the original.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Meaning: right dressing, right fitting, right looking: the pressure to wear what fits and flatters, whether literally, socially, culturally, fashionably or ideologically.

Usefulness: 1 (So useful I really don't know how we've got by without it. "I know I'm buying into orthovestia, but, seriously, tights are not pants!" "I don't think he's behind the times; I think your orthovestia can't look past his lack of a checked shirt.")

Logofascination: 1 (It's brand spanking new! And I know I might sound a bit over enthusiastic or - heaven forbid - ironic, but I really, truly think this is a word we can use. Also it is built from the Greek ortho-, meaning correct or proper, and the Latin vestir, meaning to "dress, clothe, attire, wear, adorn, bedeck, embellish, disguise, cover up, make clothes for" and a good Greek / Latin hybrid is worth its weight in gold, however it is dressed up.)

In the wild: No, because Mel Campbell only just invented it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Meaning: something that presents a moral; like or of the nature of a fable.

Usefulness: 2 (May depend on how much you read Aesop or Kipling, but could also be applied to the horror-stories you hear of work accidents. "I am sure I do not need to point out the affabulatory nature of this brief account of workers using their circular saws without sufficient PPE.")

Logofascination: 1 (A Sir Thomas original, with the only two OED citations both being Sir Thomas - it's unusual enough for Sir Thomas to use one of his words twice, even more so for the OED to quote both usages. The entry was revised in 2012, though, so it's possible that it was updated with the advantage of searchable texts - even if that is the case, it is pleasing to see that our present-day lexicographers remain as logofascinated by Sir Thomas as their predecessors. Etymologically related to fable, of course, but also affable - easy to talk to - and the rather lovely French affabulateur - storyteller.)

In the wild: No.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Meaning: the OED says it's soaked with wine, the Inky Fool merely dampened; this may reflect their respective drinking habits.

Usefulness: 1 (Especially at writer's festivals, although a word for being whisky-soaked would be even more useful - aquavitamadefied? uisgebaughmadefied?)

Logofascination: 1 (A Sir Thomas original - the reason for the disagreement on degree of dampness seems to be that the Latin root madefacio can mean a number of things, including, allegedly, intoxication, so it is also possible Sir Thomas meant intoxicated by wine. Whether you prefer dampened, soaked or intoxicated, vinomadefied is one of those extra-useful words that suggests its meaning to most.)

In the wild: Another of Sir Thomas' sole citations in the OED, this also turned up in The Horologicon. Also if you go through enough of the google results for it, you find the moment where I first met Sir Thomas.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Since I am, as mentioned, at SWF being impressed by Faramerz Dabhoiwala, brought to tears by an astounding Women of Letters session, developing a mild crush on David Astle and of course listening to the Inky Fool talk about all the words, today you just get a link or two to read.

Conrad H. Roth has a long, thoughtful and slightly quirky piece on neologism, which starts here.  Sir Thomas doesn't appear until the second part, but it's worth a read otherwise, and when it gets to Sir Thomas we also get some maths discussion - make sure you read the comments as well.

On the lighter - and shorter - side, here is a Wordnik list of words from Sir Thomas' Rabelais. I have my doubts about a few of them, but it's an entertaining list.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Voltaire on Rabelais

I'm gallivanting at the Sydney Writer's Festival for the rest of the week, so blogging may be intermittent (err, more intermittent?) due to my being overcome by logofascination, liquor, lack of sleep or all three. Fear not, though - I have a number of links and things which I shall foist on you in the interim.

To start you off, here is Voltaire's opinion of Rabelais - I'm afraid I've lost the referencing for it, but I will attempt to restore it later*:
The former has interspersed his unaccountably-fantastic and unintelligible book with the most gay strokes of humour; but which, at the same time, has a greater proportion of impertinence. He has been vastly lavish of erudition, of smut, and insipid raillery. An agreeable tale of two pages is purchased at the expense of whole volumes of nonsense. There are but few persons, and those of a grotesque taste, who pretend to understand and to esteem this work; for, as to the rest of the nation, they laugh at the pleasant and diverting touches which are found in Rabelais and despise his book. He is looked upon as the prince of buffoons. The readers are vexed to think that a man who was master of so much wit should have made so wretched a use of it; he is an intoxicated philosopher who never wrote but when he was in liquor.
For one iconic French writer to have such a poor opinion of another has caused a number of people some difficulty, although it has also given them something to write theses and books about. Rabelais is considered by some to be an early champion of democracy, individualism, libertarianism or various other -isms as the writer saw fit. I suspect Rabelais would have made fun of -isms on general principle, but here is a link to a biography of Rabelais from a libertarian perspective, which claims that Voltaire eventually saw some worth in Rabelais' work.

*Update: it's from Voltaire's Letter XXII.--On Mr. Pope and Some Other Famous Poets; thanks to a commenter for the link.


Meaning: a lampoon, satire or libel. Cotgrave:
The name of an Image, or Poste in Rome, whereon Libels and defamatorie Rimes are fastened, and fathered; also, as Pasquille.  A Pasquill; a Libell clapt on a Poste, or Image.
Usefulness: 2 (The reply-all email, the passive-agressive post-it, the anonymous online outburst, the aggrieved graffito; pasquinades all, and all potentially as comic.)

Logofascination: 1 (Derived from the nickname of a statue in Rome, on which such things were posted - for more on the statue, and the etymology of lampoon as a bonus, see here.)

In the wild: First encountered at LTA (see here for one in Latin) and then in the post linked to above, which mentioned Rabelais.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Meaning: source research; the study of a work's sources and influences.

Usefulness: 1 (If I'd known this word earlier, this blog would be the Sir Thomas Urquhart Quellenforschung, or possibly the Quellenforschung* Urquhartian.)

Logofascination: 2 (My German etymology is not so strong; the OED links it to a few other words - including quellen for sources - but they're all either very old or very dialect, or both. Unrelated to quell as in quash.)

In the wild: It was the OED word of the day recently, and LTA dug up a few earlier citations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Meaning: this side of the teeth

Usefulness: 2 (I'm having trouble putting it in a sentence: "You might want to eat some chocolate while some of it remains cidentine" doesn't specify whose teeth it is on 'this side' of. Its opposite, tradentine, meaning beyond or on the other side of the teeth, might be more useful. "Where'd that chocolate go?" "It's already tradentine." Suggestions welcome.)

Logofascination: 1 (Invented by Sir Thomas; the Alpine comparison - see below - makes me wonder if he had made this joke before.)

In the wild: Not really; Sir Thomas seems to have been the only person to use these words, which fortunately hasn't stopped the OED including them.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Meaning: Inflectional morphology. (Helpful, eh?) The parts of grammar that are concerned with the way words change to indicate different things - conjugation, declension and so on.

Usefulness: 2 (At first I thought this might mean I wouldn't have to think about whether a word was being conjugated or declined, but after writing that definition I think I'm better off sticking with my basic verbs-are-conjugated theory.)

Logofascination: 1 (It's accidents, but this specialised term has developed from the sense of an accident as something incidental, not of the essence. So number and gender are incidental - accidental - to some words, rather than essential, and are therefore expressed through inflection. The word cars indicates that there is more than one car, but the car-ness of the cars involved is not altered by the -s; the plural is an accident.*)

In the wild: Mentioned in Asterix, and explained rather better in the post translating the Latin joke in the same comic: it's funny, if you find grammar amusing.  There's a post for every Asterix book here - I'm going to be scouting second hand bookshops for a while, as it's brought on a terrible nostalgia for them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Meaning: A bdelloid rotifer of the genus Philodina or family Philodinidae. (Straight from the OED: I don't know enough to try and write it myself).

Usefulness: 1 (Besides rotifers being ridiculously interesting - in a really geeky way - philodine could well mean a love of whirling, or a whirl of love, either of which is useful.)

Logofascination: 1 (If you can resist saying 'bdelloid rotifer' aloud, you should probably stop reading this blog.  The OED etymology for philodine merely points out that it's from philo- and dinus, the Greek for whirling or vertigo. Rotifers are very, very tiny and very, very interesting - for starters they are technically animals despite being so tiny, and for seconds the Bdelloidea* have managed to survive for 80 millions years despite reproducing asexually. Since this isn't a science blog, I will stop there and point out that however much I like the idea that a biologist named them lovers of whirling, it's also possibly it is, etymologically, something more like the 'whirling family', or 'family of whirlers'.**)

In the wild: The philodine themselves are everywhere, but this being the internet, there are a number of fan pages.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Meaning: Those self-contradictory words listed in emails about the craziness of English; 'to dust', for example, can mean removing something or adding something.  As Cotgrave says:
A doubtfull, or double, meaning in one, or many, words.
Usefulness: 1 ("We like to call this the amphibologies building; our sales team and legal team share the space.")

Logofascination: 1 (Partly because it seems to be the theme this week - see below - and partly because it means I can use one of my favourite Much Ado About Nothing quotes: "There's a double meaning in that!"  Also because since I learnt that the Greeks had this problem, I wonder if they had the equivalent lists of the wackiness of the Greek language.)

In the wild: So, this week Stan Carey discussed fulsome, and linked to his previous post on chuffed (which is where I ran into amphibolous) and the ever-awesome Dinosaur Comics take on these things. LTA then mentioned auto-antonyms and a plethora of posts on the classical variety, and then (no, really) Ed Latham wrote an excellent-but-annoying* post about literally becoming (already being?) one of these words, not that he used any of the fancy technical terms.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Meaning: to throw someone or something out of a window.

Usefulness: 1 (It's a useful threat, and has apparently also become a "neologism, humorous" for uninstalling / removing Windows from a computer.)

Logofascination: 1 (It's my 200th post, so I'm being a bit nostalgic; I've been fascinated by this word since I was introduced to it at uni. Defenestration was threatened for misbehaviour in a clubroom on the second floor; reasonable when there was a balcony outside, slightly less reasonable - but possibly more interesting - when we relocated and you'd have dropped into the tavern below.  Defenestrate is actually a back-formation from defenestration, and the OED doesn't have a citation until 1915.)

In the wild: Lots of people are fascinated by this word, not least because it was coined to describe the Defenestration of Prague, which started the Thirty Years' War. Possibly the most interesting example is Brian Goggin's art installation on an abandoned building in San Francisco.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Meaning: Sir Thomas provides the unusually coy "wipe-breech" as a synonym in the chapter title, but later on translates Rabelais' simple torchecul as a list: "arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches."  Cotgrave tells us that it is a "wispe for the tayle".

Usefulness: 2 (Though I suspect Rabelais and Sir Thomas would give a fancy word for toilet paper a 1.)

Logofascination: 1 (This many posts in, and words still surprise me: torche-, a French word meaning wipe, is from the Latin torqueo - twist, wind, bend, torment.  Torqueo is at the root of thwart, torch, torque, tort, torture and nasturtium, nose-twisting flowers that they are.  Also, of course, the -tort word family: contort, distort, extort, intort, obtort, retort.  I suspect this ended up in torchecul as per Cotgrave's 'wispe' - a twist of something with which to wipe the tail.)

In the wild: It's not in the OED, which I think is a bit unfair. Someone has helpfully posted a photo of the relevant page of an illuminated Rabelais here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book the Third, XXV: How Panurge consulteth with Herr Trippa. (The -mancy chapter.)

The grand finale: the full -mancy chapter in all its glory! The -mancies are mostly toward the end; see if you can find the one I've just discovered I forgot to write up...
"Nevertheless," quoth Epistemon, continuing his discourse, "I will tell you what you may do, if you believe me, before we return to our king. Hard by here, in the Brown-wheat (Bouchart) Island, dwelleth Herr Trippa. You know how by the arts of astrology, geomancy, chiromancy, metopomancy, and others of a like stuff and nature, he foretelleth all things to come; let us talk a little, and confer with him about your business."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Meaning: busy-body

Usefulness: 1

Logofascination: 1 (The Greek is fairly straightforward - perhaps that's what I find appealing.  Poly-, meaning many, and prag-, from the same root as pragmatic, meaning deed or act or thing. Many things; apparently being busy has never been a compliment, as pragmatic also once meant meddlesome. I'll need a different answer for people asking about my work.)

In the wild: Not really, but someone has written a book about exactly what the ancients thought of it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Meaning: serial rumpy-pumpy, as in, with one person and then another.

Usefulness: 3 (I can only imagine this being used in a derogatory sense, so usefulness depends on your need for such a descriptor; discussing rugby scandals, perhaps?)

Logofascination: 1 (Invented by Sir Thomas to expand Rabelais' French - see quotes below. I used rumpy-pumpy in the definition not for fear of offending your delicate sensibilities but to allude to croup.    Ser- is fairly straightforward, and presumably from the same root as series. Croup is an older word meaning the rump or hindquarters of a horse, and is actually the root of croupier.)

In the wild: No.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Meaning: the state of having the desire to see

Usefulness: 1 (Could apply to people visiting opthalmologists, or to the relative appeal of the latest blockbuster: "George Lucas does not inspire visuriency in the public in the way he used to." Or, of course, various aspects of voyeurism.)

Logofascination: 1 (Due to being invented by Sir Thomas; related to video, of course.)

In the wild: Not really, but another of Sir Thomas' words which turns up in The Horologicon.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Meaning: the state of having the desire to touch

Usefulness: 1 ("Textured fabrics induce a terrible tacturiency in me; I find it hard to resist touching velvet." Or a sign in a shop: "Whatever your tacturiency, please resist.")

Logofascination: 1 (Besides being invented by Sir Thomas for one of his more well-known original passages, this lead to an interesting consideration of the difference between a word ending in ence - tacturience - or ency. I think it's that tacturience is the desire to touch, while tacturiency is being in the state of having that desire. As ever, clarification welcome.)

In the wild: Besides appearing in The Horologicon, it turns up in the usual logofascinated corners of the internet, and also as the name of a rather alternative art project. At least, I think it was art.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Meaning: Divination by belly button; apparently inspection of a baby's navel can reveal the number of children the mother will bear, although there's another theory that this originally involved counting the number of knots in the umbilical cord.

Usefulness: 1 (Forget numbers of children, it's terribly useful to have a word for the outcome of omphaloskepsis* - consideration of one's navel. "How did you arrive at this result, Jenkins?" "It took considerable omphalomancy, sir, but we go there in the end.")

Logofascination: 2 (I like this almost as much as tyromancy, but etymologically it's just the Greek for navel and -mancy.)

In the wild:  Not really, but someone has helpfully compiled a montage of bellybuttons for Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Meaning: A flock or flight of birds, or a large aviary - Cotgrave:
A great cage, or coope wherein birds have roome ynough to flutter.
Usefulness: 2 (Mainly to trick people; I was quite excited when I saw this word, because I liked the idea of something full of voles.)

Logofascination: 2 (This might be coloured by my disappointment on discovering that voleries are not, in fact, full of voles, but it is an example of the quirks of word formation. From the French word voliere of the same meaning, in turn from voler, to fly, and etymologically unrelated to the vole.)

In the wild: Gets mentioned occasionally as an exotic collective noun.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Meaning: It eventually meant an associate, friend, partner, but the OED defines its oldest sense as "A person with whom one copes or contends; an adversary, antagonist."

Usefulness: 1 (Someone you cope or contend with? This word is ripe for resurrection regarding office companions, housemates, and - depending on your family - siblings. "A new copesmate joined our team today; she bought muffins, so we think we're going to like her.")

Logofascination: 1 (This makes more sense when you realise that cope originally meant "to come to blows with". Like cope, copesmate has evolved from that antagonistic origin, with a diversion into meaning adulterous lover, paramour and/or spouse.)

In the wild: Shakespeare uses it in The Rape of Lucrece
'Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night,
Swift subtle post, carrier of grisly care,
Eater of youth, false slave to false delight,
Base watch of woes, sin's pack-horse, virtue's snare;
Thou nursest all and murder'st all that are:
O, hear me then, injurious, shifting Time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Meaning:  To bewilder. Cotgrave borrows some synonyms from incornifistibulating to define the French version:
To trouble, blunder, or or pester the mind with, to beat the braines about.
Usefulness: 1 (It just sounds right: "I"m just so emblustricated!" "Your emblustrications won't work this time, my friend." "I managed to emblustricate the boss enough that he just agreed to my pay rise!")

Logofascination: 1 (Even if it weren't a 0-degree word, the OED etymology note would improve its rating: "Whimsically formed to render the equally fantastic French emburelucoquer." We who are logofascinated salute you, oh distant lexicographer.)

In the wild: not really.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Meaning: Frame glosses this as counterweights which, in context (below), seems about right; something like the weights in a clock, perhaps.

Usefulness: 3 (I'd be impressed if you could work this into conversation, but Rabelais' line might be worth learning.)

Logofascination: 2 (From the Latin for thread and hanging, I wonder if Rabelais is suggesting that these counterweights are flimsily suspended).

In the wild: Although filopendulums isn't defined anywhere, the botanically-inspired filipendulous was recommended by the OED today.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Meaning: exuding sweetness, overly sweet.

Usefulness: 1 (With a suggestion of artificiality, it's a useful way to describe those who are, well, artificially sweet.)

Logofascination: (Ezra Pound coined it for one of his Cantos, consigning the saccharescent to an eternity in glucose. It was written just after World War I, which was apparently, when saccharin became more widely used. The artificiality of saccharin and the abstract chemistry of glucose against the absent sugar; it's a modern Hell that Pound is imagining.)

In the wild: In Canto XV, which is particularly Boschian, so I'd only look it up if you're feeling strong-stomached and / or cynical.  If you're after something a bit lighter, I found it in this quiz.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave*: A budget-maker... as in Bougette.  (Bougette: A little coffer, or trunke of wood, covered with leather, wherewith the women of old time carried their jewels, attires, and trinkets at their saddle bowes, when they rid into the countrey; now gentlemen call so, both any such trunke; and the box, or till of their Cabinets wherein they keepe their money; also, a little male, pouch, or budget.)

Usefulness: 1 (Apologies for the intermittent posting recently; by day I'm an accountant, or, as my new business cards will proclaim, a bougetier. Budgets, whether the bags or chests of old, or the spreadsheets of new, take time and energy from important things like how many synonyms Sir Thomas had for bodily functions.)

Logofascination: 1 (Etymologically, budgets are little bags, related to bulges and bellies, and by meaning, to postmen. The male mentioned by Cotgrave above is our mail.)

In the wild: Since it's technically a French word, only on French sites. If you think they're wild, you need to get out more.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave: divination by water in a basin. Often involves adding something to the water and observing the patterns: oil, tiles, etc.

Usefulness: 3 (I might have been fascinated 31 -mancys ago, but things are at the point where even my mother is over the -mancys. There is one more, but it's pretty boring so I'll be doing the most interesting of the other -mancys out there and then stopping.  These have all been from the one chapter of the third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel, for those of you who missed the start.)

Logofascination: 2 (Divination by dish: pretty straightforward, but highlights the lack of other descendants from the λεκάνη root.)

In the wild: No, but I'm rather fond of the intro to the Wikipedia article: "a form of divination which, like many ancient forms of divination, has multiple interpretations".  I wonder sometimes if this is because only  three people ever practiced them. )

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Today is the 460th anniversary of Rabelais' death (probably, although we're more certain of that than of the day - or year - of his birth).  You can see a few of my favourite quotes* over on @SDOSTU. If you need a word fix, here are some coined by Rabelais himself and Anglicised by Sir Thomas:




*that I could get down to 140 characters, anyway. The wipe-bummatory chapter was unfortunately eliminated. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


Meaning: between the breasts; Sir Thomas helpfully provides a Latinate synonym, intermammillary.

Usefulness: 2 (Perhaps best used as Sir Thomas did, to describe jewellery: "Your metamazion ornament is lovely; where did you get it?" Although I have known those of a more bathycolpian tendency to store things - including, occasionally, mobile phones - metamazionally.)

Logofascination: 1 (A Sir Thomas original, which I suspect would be more widely known if it'd ended up in  his G&P. From meta-, obviously, and mazo-, a variant of Greek masto-, relating to the breast. Mazo- is part of some Greek folk etymology - i.e. probably wrong - for the Amazons.)

In the wild: No, but the OED thinks that formations using mazo- were only found from the 19th century, so I'll have to let them know. They do have intermammillary, also a Sir Thomas original (see quote below), meaning you get two zero degree words in one post. Bargain.

Degrees: 0

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: Ekskybalauron. As mentioned the other day, the Admirable Chrichton meets a sad end, and the entire court mourn him:
most of the young ladies likewise, that were anything handsome*, in a memorial of his worth, had his effigies in a little oval tablet of gold hanging 'twixt their breasts, and held, for many yeers together, that metamazion, or intermammilary ornament, an as necessary outward pendicle** for the better setting forth of their accoutrements, as either fan, watch, or stomacher.

 *Sir Thomas is probably using this in an earlier sense, meaning well-mannered, decent.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Where to read Rabelais

According to D. B. Wyndham Lewis:
RABELAIS must be read among the rich lands of the Chionnais in Touraine, on the edge of a white road with cornfields and vineyards on either side. But let there be a farmyard near, with a ripe and aromatic muck-heap in it, the scent of which must be borne to you on the wind; and let there be also loud bursts of rustic laughter and a bottle of Chinon.
Via LTA, which has Wyndham Lewis' thoughts on other authors.

Rabelais was probably born somewhere near Chinon, in the region then called the Touraine. Wyndham Lewis wrote a biography of Rabelais (Doctor Rabelais, 1957) and said that rather than seeing Rabelais as a kind of Renaissance superhero, he considered him to be
a highly cultivated, brilliant, jolly, slightly alcoholic, quick-tempered member of the French professional bourgeoisie talking gloriously at high speed and occasionally making an ass of himself.
Which seems a much more human perspective to me.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Meaning: Etymologically, the song of the billy-goat. No, really. Here's Cotgrave with a more traditional* definition:
a statelie Play whose conclusion is dolefull, and doubtfull.
Usefulness: 2 (Very useful, but downgraded due to overuse.)

Logofascination: 1 (I'm sure some of you knew this etymology already, but it's just such a great story. Plus, goats. The OED entry refers to Mr Flickinger's article from 1913, available here if you're after 20 pages of philology on the matter. It should be pointed out that the OED entry hasn't been updated since 1913, so there may well be more recent scholarship on the matter.  For those of you who haven't heard it before, tragedy is from the Greek for male goat - tragos - and song, but no-one can really agree on the reason for this.)

In the wild: See if you can find a newspaper that doesn't use it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave, ever honest:
Palmistrie; a guessing at ones fortune by the markes, or making, of his hand.
Usefulness: 3 (I suppose you could extend it to the practice of judging people by their handshake, but it's not the most interesting of words.)

Logofascination: 2 (From the Greek for hand and divination, of course, and therefore related to chironomatic. And, yes, chiropractors.)

In the wild: Palmistry is one of the more well known -mancys, so there are any number of discussions out there. Of course, what one chiromancer considers blatantly obvious, another will dismiss as archaic nonsense, so if you must Google, do so wisely and widely.


Meaning: a hot, dry African wind - one of the winds whose names are lovelier than the reality (not that I've experienced one... yet).

Usefulness: 3 (I've known this word for a long time, but I think this is the first time I've used it.)

Logofascination: 1 (There's something about the names of winds: they have their own Wikipedia article, and there are slightly different lists all over the internet. Growing up, I took the Fremantle Doctor for granted, not realising how lucky I was to know a wind with a name, let alone a pleasant one*. The simoon** is, etymologically, poison.)

In the wild:  Yes; I discovered it as the name of a submarine, a Polish espionage movie, and in various bits of Bible commentary.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Meaning: use of a dialect in writing, originally from the alleged influence of the dialect of Padua (Patavium) on Livy's writing.

Usefulness: 1 (As literary criticism: "I don't mind patavinity, but some writers take it much too far." Or just to make it sound like you know something about Roman writers.)

Logofascination: 2

In the wild: No, unless you're prepared to stretch 'wild' to include history texts.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave:*
Divination by the observation of water, or by spirits appearing in it.
Usefulness: 2 (It covers a wide range of -mancys, including ceromancy and catoptromancy, the time-honoured witch-test, the mirror of Galadriel, and even raises your basic throwing-pebbles-into-water to a form of divination.)

Logofascination: 3 (The Greek hydro- is ultimately from the same root as water, and vodka, and otters.)

In the wild: Yes; as with pyromancy, there are those who confuse divination with spell-casting, and use it incorrectly. There's also a how-to video out there, this being the internet.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Meaning: Mystified, confused. Cotgrave has:
To dunce upon, to puzzle, or (too much*) beat the braines about.
Usefulness: 1

Logofascination: 1 (A Rabelaisian formation from the Greek mataiosvain or frivolous, and a French term, grabeller, which Cotgrave defines as "To garbell spices &c. (and hence) also, to examine precisely, sift neerely, looke narrowly, search curiously, into." I like the fact that the spelling of garbell is itself garbled into grabeller.)

In the wild: It's in Stalky and Co! That's right, this blog has allowed me to connect Sir Thomas and Kipling, albeit via Rabelais. 'The Impressionists' features this line: "Come to think of it, we have metagrobolised 'em."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave, definining Philogrobolizé du cerveau, or philogrobolized in the brain:
intoxicated, astonied, bedunced, at his wits end.
Usefulness: 1 (Besides that use, there's also the one suggested in The Horologicon: "It conveys a hangover, without ever having to admit that you've been drinking.")

Logofascination: 1 (Sir Thomas brought it into English, and has the only citation in the OED, but Rabelais might've formed this. It's related to metagrobolize - tomorrow's word - and the OED suggests that the philo- is the traditional compound, meaning love, but I suspect that it is meant to suggest philosophy or philosophising; their brains are overcome by too much thinking. I must admit to also being rather fond of the phrase philogrobolized in their brains.)

In the wild: no; the only other uses I've found are in other translations of Rabelais, or, as mentioned, The Horologicon.


Meaning: Cotgrave:
Northerlie, of or in the North.
Usefulness: 1 (OK, it might not be that useful, but it's a ten dollar word you can bandy about, and it sounds good: septentrional. I'm proposing it as the antonym for Antipodean; anyone north of the equator is a septentrionan.)

Logofascination: 1 (From the Latin for seven plough-oxen, referring to Ursa Major or Minor - the OED has Major, so I'm going with that.  Either way, it's because those stars can help you find North... if you're in the Northern hemisphere, of course. The Southern Cross is the southern equivalent; it can be used to find south if you're ever below the equator.)

In the wild:  Digging about in Trove, (don't blame me if you get lost in there) I found a rather lovely piece from 1911 on the British Navy coming to Cromarty, and how much Sir Thomas would've appreciated it. As if his writing on the subject were not enough to mark him one of the logofascinated, our anonymous Englishman's casual use of a word like septentrional in his second-last paragraph is a dead giveaway.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Meaning: Admiral W. H. Smyth, in that lexicographical classic, The Sailor's Word-book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms*:
piratical cruising; also, used generally, for beating to windward along a coast, or cruising off and on.
Usefulness: 3 (Although I can find applications for this definition, they would far too often be confused with the more common sense, which involves tubas in subways and the like.)

Logofascination: 1 (Busk has a number of meanings which relate to dressing up and/or busyness, but it is from the nautical term that busking, fundraising by musicians, is derived.  The OED citations leave impressions of musicians wandering through pubs thronged with sailors, or wandering the seaside, courting fickle summer crowds. However correct these fancies are, my main fascination is with the lovely phrases in Smyth's definition, although since beating to windward is sailing against the wind, it's probably not as lovely as it sounds.)

In the wild: Not that I can see; the uses are all musical.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Meaning: divination by fire, as I'm sure you all knew already. There are many, many forms of this particular -mancy (including axinomancy), as it can also include divination by smoke (libanomancy) or ashes (tephromancy).

Usefulness: 1 (Of course it most commonly refers to that ancient human practice: staring into a flame. Pyromancy can therefore be used to refer to any moment where you or your companions are captivated by a match, candle, campfire, bushfire, etc.)

Logofascination: 1 (Besides being o-l-d, the way the word fire is old - they were the same word once, after all - looking up pyro- in the dictionary can lead you to interesting things like the pyrophone.

In the wild: Sadly, its most common use on the net is wrong; in extrapolating from necromancer, some think that a pyromancer is someone who can use fire as weapon, and pyromancy is therefore not the power of seeing things in fire, but of summoning / wielding fire.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Meaning: originating in the French theatre, a group of people paid to applaud, and therefore extended pejoratively to a group of supporters or flatterers.

Usefulness: 1 ("We need a claque for a forum coming up - any volunteers?" Could also be extended to social media: "I'm sure most of his followers are from a claque.")

Logofascination: 1 (It's a fraternal twin to clique - they're both onomatopoeic, but clique has wandered off slightly to mean a more exclusive group. I like the idea of using them together; you can talk of cliques and claques, cliquers and claquers.)

In the wild: I've seen it in a few places, including over at LTA, but the Wikipedia article is interesting: it alleges that there were also rieurs (laughers), pleureurs (criers), chatouilleurs (ticklers, warm-up comics), bisseurs (encore-ers) and possibly my favourite, "commissaires ... who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts." There are definitely some commissairesout there today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lurgibrious linkage

As mentioned, I'm suffering from the dreaded lurgi, so no post tonight, but a link I hope will distract you sufficiently. It's a metafilter thread on the more interesting things people have in Google Reader (*moments silence*) and therefore a list of some corners of the internet occupied by the quirky, the specialist, or the downright obsessed; you'll be unsurprised to learn that this blog gets a mention.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Meaning: a generic disease, often used to describe flu of various sorts.

Usefulness: 1 (When you have one, as I do. Doctors talk vaguely about viruses, but we all know they mean lurgi.)

Logofascination: 1 (Possibly invented by the Goon Show, this word has been particularly useful to diseased bloggers: the Inky Fool considered its possible origins, and Lynneguist linked to a comprehensive World Wide Words post and a video on cooties. I'm interested in the spelling issue - the Goons spelt it lurgi, as I normally do, but the OED has lurgy.  Here's hoping those links will keep you busy, as I may need a night or two off to do battle with it.)

In the wild: Mainly in the UK, and dying out in books, if ngram is to be believed.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Meaning: the ache for the distance, farsickness, wanderlust, itchy feet.

Usefulness: 1 (Fernweh is one of my favourite words, and something I've suffered from for some time now, so I am biased regarding its usefulness. I think it's more useful than wanderlust or itchy feet, as it captures the longing for faraway places when at home, and the joyful ache of beauty I experience when travelling.)

Logofascination: 1 (A German word, the logical opposite to heimweh, homesickness; it's from words meaning, unsurprisingly, far and ache. Looking up heimweh is fascinating, as it leads you to nostalgia, apparently coined especially for Swiss mercenaries who suffered terribly when working in the rest of Europe, flat and boring when compared to Swiss mountains.)

In the wild: It got a mention in my previous dromomania post, and is the name of my other blog, updated even less now that I have this one.


Meaning: divination by baked goods with some kind of prophecy or philosophy implanted; fortune cookies are an obvious example.

Usefulness: 1 (Fancy words for common things are always useful.)

Logofascination: 2 (The spelling is an issue; Sir Thomas has alentomancy - which I think sounds nicer - probably influenced by Cotgrave's alebromantie which is in turn probably a mis-reading or -hearing of alevromantie. The OED assures me that it's aleuromancy, from the Greek for flour, and cites a corrected passage.)

In the wild: It's the internet: someone performs divination via photos of flour on tumblr*. Perhaps I should ask them to divine how you will subscribe to this blog after Google Reader dies (along with what little affection I had left for Google). Heck, I should ask how I'm going to read any of the 43 obscure things I subscribe to.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Meaning: The context suggests thinking hard or becoming confused, but no-one except Sir Thomas knows what this means, or its origins.

Usefulness: 1 ("Don't inpulregafize yourself, sir, we'll fix it." "She's easily inpulregafized, isn't she?)

Logofascination: 1 (Sir Thomas probably invented it to match Rabelais' 'emburelucoque', which Cotgrave defines as "Turmoiled, blundered, or pestered, as the braine about a troublesome businesse."  The etymology for inpulregafize is obscure, which is probably why it is still undefined.  It is possible that just this once Sir Thomas invented a word without Latin or Greek elements, but I think that's unlikely.  I might need to email some classicists.)

In the wild: Nope.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Meaning: A pelican, or according to Cotgrave:
"A Swan-like bird that brayes like an Asse; (or as Gouttreuse.)" ... "A certain white, long-beaked, and tonglesse bird, that hath a great red pouch hanging from her neather beake to her breast; otherwise (in bignesse, and shape) somewhat resembling a Swanne."
Usefulness: 2 (In the Bible they're popular for feeding their own blood to their children, which of course any good manager will do for their team.  If you know the etymology or the mythology, or even just Rabelais' allusions, you can of course use it to refer to anyone loud or lusty.)

Logofascination: 1 (Besides this word translating to donkey-rattle*, etymologically speaking, pelicans have also influenced albatross and Alcatraz. If you're in any doubt that they're awesome and / or carnivorous, see this guy's round up. NB: slightly gory, involves basketball and eating small animals. Rabelais attempts to leapfrog off the donkey's reputation to render the pelican promiscuous, but gluttony seems to be most associated.)

In the wild: There are less and less of the birds themselves, sadly, but this term is maintained in some species names.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Meaning: has two meanings, both of which you could guess from the sound of the word; the first is to be flattering or fawning, and the second, as the OED delicately puts it, is "to display affection, to behave amorously."  The affection doesn't have to be romantic, though; it can be parental or platonic.

Usefulness: 1 (You might not get to do much of the latter, but you'll almost certainly need to do some of the former.)

Logofascination: 1 (Apparently an Antipodean term, the OED suggests a verb form of smudge as an ancestor, probably a variant of smooch, although Cotgrave has the much prettier spelling of smoutch in defining the French baiser: "To kisse, to smoutch, to smacke." Cotgrave obviously preferred his kisses on the hearty side.)

In the wild: I live near the Edinburgh Gardens, which have been a popular smooging spot for some time.  A friend sent me this photo of diary extracts (I'm not sure what year, I'm sorry) which are displayed at the State Library of Victoria. "Worked, evening wrote letter and then went out to meet mash, posted letters, went to Edinborough Gardens, sat there smooging for a time." Substitute 'Facebook' for 'letters' and it's your average Fitzroy day, really.


Meaning: Divination by barley meal or barley bread. Depending on your level of desperation, while eating it the guilty party will choke and die, suffer from indigestion, cough a little, or their stomach will rumble.

Usefulness: 2 (Provides the opportunity to denounce someone as a sorceror - or epithet of your choice - when they choke on their food.)

Logofascination: 2 (Also known as corsned.)

In the wild:  By this theory, irritable bowel is in fact a symptom of a guilty conscience.  One of the few -mancys I can see a glimmer of sense in; bake some indigestible bread and find out who has the most nervous stomach. Allegedly what killed Godwin, Earl of Essex.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Meaning: A Scottish water demon, and the name of a breed of Australian working dog.

Usefulness: 3 (Unless I have any readers in the bush.)

Logofascination: 1 (The matriarch of the breed lent her name to it - presumably she liked water. The  demon is etymologically unrelated to kelp, the seaweeed.)

In the wild: An article on the dearth of kelpies in the (Australian) National Sheep Dog trials. If you're interested in how my brain works, I looked up kelpie because I've been reading If Houses Why Not Mouses?, in which Mr O'Brien discusses a Siamese cat named Wankee who had no influence whatsoever on breed names or any other words*. (N.B. If Houses Why Not Mouses? is so logofascinating that I can only read it in small bursts, because the part of my brain that likes words and language overloads after about a chapter. You can read a sample at the Wankee link above.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Meaning: very, very nasty; usually used in association with crime: "flagitious crime".

Usefulness: 1 (Sadly.)

Logofascination: 1 (Fascinating, but confusing; although at first glance I thought it would be a cousin to flagrant, it seems to be more closely related to flagellation. The OED links the flag- back to the same root as flagrant, but etymonline has different Proto-Indo European roots for them. The OED entry hasn't been updated since 1896, so I'm going with etymonline, meaning that etymologically, this refers to crimes resulting in scourging.)

In the wild: No; I'm rather suprised newspapers and politicians haven't resurrected it.


Meaning: Cotgrave:
Madly to run vp and downe, playing on a Cymball, and wagging his head, like one of Cybeles Priests; also, to sleep with open eyes.
Usefulness: 1

Logofascination: 1 (Depending on which wikipedia article you believe, the Korybantes either worshipped Cybele with drums and dancing and some soldierly drills - note the illustration on this article - or were a 'disorderly ecstatic following' accompanied by wild music and wine. It's also possible this was all a Greco-Roman cultural misunderstandings, or that they were in fact all of the above. Whatever the case, their name survives as a word to describe frenzied activity; one can be corybantic or corybantine or, if you prefer the French, corybantiant.)

In the wild: I found this in Cotgrave just last week, and then it turned up in Kory Stamper's plea for rationality on National (US*) Grammar Day. Among many, many quotable lines on grammatical overreactions and obsessions, she mentions "the corybantic orgy of less/fewer corrections."