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 Philogroboliz√© 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."