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.