Thursday, January 31, 2013


Meaning: divination by rooster, usually by interpreting patterns in how they eat grain. Cotgrave:
Divination by a Cocke; or by the Cocke stone. 
Usefulness: 1 (If you can't make a joke out of that, you shouldn't be reading a blog featuring Rabelais. Otherwise I suspect it'd only be useful if you have roosters, unless you try the same technique with gulls or pigeons: you could assign pieces of bread certain values and see what order they were eaten in. "I tried alectryomancy* with gulls at the lake today; apparently you should look for a new job in February.")

Logofascination: 2 (From the Greek for cock. Also known as alectromancy.)


Meaning: Cotgrave: Trembling, terrour, feare.

Usefulness: 1 (As a friend pointed out recently, particularly useful as a description of how one feels while awaiting the arrival of a hangover; dread and trembling indeed.)

Logofascination: 1 (From shaking or trembling in PIE to alarmed or scared in Latin, through various shifts through both meanings in English, and with a diversion into the astronomical, the history of this word oscillates between the shaking and the scared. I sense it has swung toward scared of late, and possibly out into foreboding, but given its history, this may not last.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Meaning: a rhetorical term for a litany of abuse, invective, execration, imprecation.

Usefulness: 1 (Once you learn the B is silent, it becomes much easier to say. This word will be come in handy if you're ever so foolish as to express opinions on things on the internet.)

Logofascination: 1 (From the Greek for 'cutting' or 'filth, nastiness', according to a rather useful article on the subject. Google Translate tells me that abomination or abhorrence is the translation for the modern Greek equivalent.  I have not yet found any related terms, and the word itself is not in the OED. We have several options for Latin equivalents, but the Greek doesn't seem to have parented any English descendants.)

Monday, January 28, 2013


Meaning: an Australian word for the Australia Day public holiday* - originally referring to farmers who 'squatted' on Crown land and grew rich, the term is now used of wealthy Australian pastoralists in general, but particularly those families with a long history** on the land.

Usefulness: 2 (Obviously depends on location and social circle, but could be extended to include the British royal family, what with Australia actually being occupied at the time the land was claimed for the Crown.)

Logofascination: 1 (Learning about this word means learning a little about Australian history and society, and our own attitude toward it. Its decline in use - see here - also hints at the shift towards the 'resource sector' i.e. mining. That's pretty fascinating, I think.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Meaning: divination by names, particularly by the letters in a given name (usually by assigning numbers to the letters).

Usefulness: 2 (I have a vague memory of doing this in primary school; I think there was a way you could do sums with your name and someone else's name and divine how well the whole thing would work. I'm not sure what that meant at 10 years old, but it was interesting.)

Logofascination: 1 (A bit obscure - even for this blog - but there is discussion in the OED citations and a few other places about whether this is onomancy or onomatomancy. A couple of citations suggest that onomancy means divination by ass, which is technically correct, but I think they're being sarcastic and mocking the user's lack of Latin. Some people take them seriously, however, but do not provide details on exactly how one would perform divination by donkey.)


Meaning: the rippling or tumbling of flowing water.

Usefulness: 2 (I thought of this as a lovely, poetic word until I discovered a quote from Charles Cotton's Burlesque upon Burlesque in the OED: "His Brains came poppling out like water."*)

Logofascination: 1 (Popple is rather pretty, and along with bubble and guggle is probably onomatopoeic. There is another, etymologically separate sense - the frequentative of pop, which applies to motorbikes, gunfire, etc)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave:
deflowre, take the maidenhead of, depriue of her maidenhead.
Usefulness: 1 (Useful as a fancy version of popping the cherry, used symbolically of so many things.)

Logofascination: 1 (From the French pucelle, meaning young girl or maid, Sir Thomas translates this as the un-maidening. Compare depudicate, which is from a different Latin root entirely and is, etymologically, the de-chasteing.)

Monday, January 21, 2013


Meaning: the pointing hand symbol F as used in typography, also known as the bishop's fist, pointing hand, mutton-fist*, digit, index, fist or phist. See the Flickr group here for images.

Usefulness: 1 (Manicule is particularly useful as the specific word for this thing; unlike the synonyms above, it has no other meaning. Probably began life as a scribal emphasis - a manual manicule, if you like - so you could always add your own where needed.)

Logofascination: 2 (While the word had been around for a while, manicule was championed in an online essay in 2005, Toward a History of the Manicule. It's interesting, but on the longer side.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Meaning: boat shaped.

Usefulness: 2 (Depends on location; outside of the foot, my main association is with the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, which has a navicular nave, the prow pointing straight out into the Sea of Galilee.)

Logofascination: 1 (It is of course related to the navy, but also to naves, and possibly even navel.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Meaning: divination by a randomly selecting a line from a text. The OED says:
Divination by lines of verse in books taken at hazard.
Hazard is of course being used to mean chance, although I like the idea that you have to consult a text while in danger.  Methods range from opening a book to a random page, balancing it on its spine and allowing it to fall open, and waiting for a book to fall onto the floor and seeing where it opens when you pick it up.

Usefulness: 1 (I've mentioned the sortes virgilianae before, and it would appear that where there is an important text of some kind, people will use it in this way. I've just tried it with Shakespeare's Complete Works* and got Richard II: "The wind sits fair for news to go to Ireland. But none returns." Make of that what you will.)

Logofascination: 1 (Sticho- is from the Greek stikhos which meant row, line or verse, and turns up in acrostic** and my new favourite word, stichology, the science or theory of metre in poetry.)


Meaning: listed by the OED as unrequited, it turns out that this rather poetical word probably means 'unpaid'. I think Sir Thomas would appreciate that.

Usefulness: 1 (For sheer beauty; "we the unforgolden..." may well increase receipts if introduced to your debtor's statements.)

Logofascination: 1 (We're talking some old Anglo-Saxon language here; so old that I've had to find whole new websites to look it up, and having found them, am still not quite sure what the etymology is.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sir Thomas Urquhart in Fiction

Apologies for the change to regular programming, but this morning I learnt of a new(ish) work of fiction featuring Sir Thomas, and was inspired to write up the ones I know of.  Sir Thomas seems to be the sort of character who catches the imagination, possibly because so much of his unique personality comes through in his writing, if you can manage to read enough of it. Of course anyone who can read enough of it is slightly odd, which explains a lot about these stories.

Logopandocy - Alasdair Gray
Written in 1983, this short story is presented as Sir Thomas' diary (diurnal) and in a style that is eerily reminiscent of Sir Thomas' writing. Slightly fantastic, it features a conversation between Sir Thomas and Milton about Babel, universal languages and 'the greatest and most truly Original Book in the Universe' - unfortunately there is a slight misunderstanding as to which Book that is, Sir Thomas of course having Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel in mind. The story also features Gray's characteristic illustrations, a number of which are of Sir Thomas, and various lists of pros and cons (contras) which draw extensively on Sir Thomas' own writing. Gray himself has said that only "one in twenty readers" would be bothered with this story. It is one for the logofascinated, including words Gray appears to have made up for the occasion, as well as a number of Sir Thomas'. If you've stuck with this blog you'll enjoy it, and if you've read any of Sir Thomas' original writings, you'll enjoy it even more. I wasn't able to find it as a stand-alone, but you can currently get all of Alasdair Gray's short stories on Kindle for $9.99, something you should probably do regardless of how you feel about Sir Thomas. (I can't tell you what the UK equivalent costs, I'm sorry, because Amazon are afraid to tell me.)

A Handbook of Volapuk - Andrew Drummond
Drummond is another Scottish writer, and in this novel he is inspired by the constructed language Volapuk. Sir Thomas is the basis for a character in the novel (called Sir Thomas), due of course to the language he purports to have constructed (I have my doubts) in Logopandecteision.  I haven't read this yet, as it doesn't seem to be currently in print or e-book, but the review here was enough for me to risk about A$8 on If you're looking for it on another book-buying site, it's helpful to look for 'Volapuk' rather than the full title, as some booksellers have listed it more simply. Make sure you don't buy the original Handbook of Volapuk unless you're particularly into constructed languages. There's more about the book on Drummond's website.

The Lairds of Cromarty - Jean-Pierre Ohl
Strangely enough, or perhaps not when you consider their history, this book was written by a Frenchman, in French, and translated into English late last year. Ohl stayed in Cromarty during his research for the novel, a mystery set in the 1950's and featuring fictional descendants of the Urquhart clan. It doesn't appear to be available in e-book (in English, anyway), but the interview here and review here convinced me to get a paper copy shipped across the globe. Promiscuous book-buyer that I am, I ordered this one from, but it is available via the Amazon domain of your geographical preference.

Reviews to come once the books do (a week or two, this being the Antipodes). 

Monday, January 14, 2013


Meaning: according to Sir Thomas, "one after another". Since he invented it, he should know.

Usefulness: 1 (Sir Thomas uses it of a killing men and of paying bills, so it's rather versatile.  Gets extra points for potential confusion: "I've booked meetings epassyterotically today." "I beg your pardon?" "You know; one after the other." )

Logofascination: 1 (I think I need to learn Greek; the OED tells me this is from ἐπασσύτερον, epassyteron - 'one upon another'. I'm fairly sure the ep- is related to epi- in episode and epicentre, but after that I get stuck. It doesn't seem to be related to erotically, though I'm sure Sir Thomas appreciated the semi-homophone. I recommend reading the etymonline erotica entry anyway, as an exercise in appreciating the effect of being surprised by poetry. Yet another sola word, for which Sir Thomas is the only citation in the OED.)

Friday, January 11, 2013


Meaning: to be sought

Usefulness: 2 (The to be formation makes these words slightly difficult to use.  "It's Friday night, so cocktails are appetenda!" However, the sermon mentioned on Monday is now complete: that which is to be believed, done, fled from, feared, and sought. I think this could also be a useful way to plan your life - what are my credenda, facienda, fugienda, timenda and appetenda? There's a self-book in that, I'm sure.)

Logofascination: 1 (from petĕre, to seek, appetenda is word-cousins with appetite, centripetal, compete, repeat, petition, petulant, ... and so on.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Meaning: divination by human entrails or human sacrifice, occasionally as a way of discovering how the gods felt about the sacrifice. This seems a bit rough on the sacrifice, particularly if rejected. The OED has one of its definitions-with-commentary:
Pretended divination by the entrails of men.
I'm not sure what genuine divination by entrails is called.

Usefulness: 2 (Symbolically, of course: "It wasn't an inquiry, it was anthropomancy - the minister gave him up to the masses to see which way the polls would go.")

Logofascination: 2

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Meaning: things which are to be feared

Usefulness: 2 (More difficult to use than it first appears. "Spiders are not among my timenda.")

Logofascination: 2 (From timere, which you will be unsurprised to learn is also the root for timid, timorous and intimidate.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Meaning: things to be avoided, or if you're feeling a bit more literal, fled from.

Usefulness: 1 (for all of your facienda, there are at least ten fugienda. Can be used when someone asks for assistance: "I'll just add it to my list of fugienda." or of people: "Since the Christmas party, she's decided that I'm among the fugienda.")

Logofascination: 2 (I'm amazed this isn't more popular; perhaps its original life in sermonising held it back. From fugere, to flee, which is also the root of fugitive, refuge, fugacious, and, well, lots of words.)

Monday, January 7, 2013


Meaning: Sir Thomas helpfully defines this for us:
Faciendas, are the things which are to be done; faciendum is the gerund of facio.
Faciendum and agendum have similar (if not identical*) meanings, but agendum's busy plural moved with the times and assumed a new meaning.

Usefulness: 1 (If you want a short meeting, ask if anyone has any faciendas. Alternatively, The Horologicon suggests facienda as a more interesting name for a to-do list.)

Logofascination: 1 (Etymologically facienda and hacienda are the same word. Note that Sir Thomas adds the English plural s to the already plural Latin word, although he then uses the singular faciendum a few paragraphs later. He's done this before, so I've added a label for his Latin plurals.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Meaning:  Depending on the era/writer, Tutivillus is the devil responsible for collecting the words of gossips, to be reported against them in heaven, or the errors priests made in liturgy*, ditto. He is also referred to as the "patron demon of scribes", causing errors such as haplography. As is appropriate, his name has any number of possible spellings, including Titivullis. There's more about him here, here or here.

Usefulness: 1 (However scanty the evidence for his past existence may be, we need a typo demon.)

Logofascination: 1 (After various roles in the Mystery Plays, he evolved into a word, titivil, and allegedly shows up twice in Shakespeare as tilly-vally or tilly-fally. That's quite a career, particularly when you consider what small errors it is built on - Screwtape would be impressed.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Meaning: divination by lots; Rabelais refers to the tradition of the King cake, or galette des Rois, for Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve, January 5 this year):
cheromancy,* as the bean is found in the cake at the Epiphany vigil.
Whover finds the bean in the cake is King for the night, or, presumably, Queen.** As ever, this comes with privileges - such as the ability to create arbitrary laws, (ala the Lord of Misrule); and responsibilities - in Sir Thomas’ example below, paying for the drinks.

Usefulness: 2 (Epiphany Eve is a Saturday this year, so all you need is to assemble some guests, source a galette des Rois, and decide what your Roy de la febve will be required to do. See also: paying for the drinks.)

Logofascination: 2 (The clero- is from Greek, and probably the same one that turns up in cleric.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Meaning: fascinated by words. Sir Thomas was probably using fascinated in its older sense of enchanted, or bewitched. The softer, modern meaning of 'interested in' doesn't turn up for another century or two.

Usefulness: 1 (Use with caution, as in the source text - see below - logofascination involves fainting or bursting blood vessels.)

Logofascination: 1 (Logofascinated is often used to describe Sir Thomas, although I suspect he would have thought of himself as the logofascinator.  Despite reports to the contrary, he didn't describe himself as a 'logofascinated spirit' - this error is probably due to a misreading of the Oxford DNB's description of Sir Thomas 'in his own terms'. The text the DNB refers to is the one quoted below.)