Earlier this week on the BBC I saw the Queen give her speech in thanks for her recent 90th birthday celebrations, and as I watched I thought how lucky Her Majesty was to have someone on staff to help her write her speeches. (I am assuming this is the case, because if she had to write all her speeches entirely by herself where the hell would she find time to do anything else?)
Anyway, assuming the Queen does have a speechwriter I have to say I am a tad jealous. I could really have used someone like that these last few days to help me with my words. I have had real problems stringing a coherent sentence together all week. And not just a sentence in the Queen’s English either—a sentence in any intelligible form whatsoever. On more than one occasion I have had to stop, take a breath, and remind myself—
‘Use your words Sally . . . use your words . . . ‘
And then, towards the end of this week I came down with a really severe head cold—which explained a lot. While being ever-so-slightly pissed off about this, because, well, who needs it?—I was also quite relieved, as I had been starting to think my brain must have sprung a leak somewhere. But being under the weather, and seemingly in a perpetual brain-fog, did make me more aware of just how much I depend on my words—and how much I like words and miss them when I can’t find them.
(Well, I like most words. I don’t like acronyms—and I am not even sure they count as real words anyway, even though they are pronounced as such. And I don’t like initialisms either, as it turns out. Did you know there was a difference between an acronym and an initialism? I didn’t, and I am not really sure I needed to know that either, but there you go . . . )
But, aside from these, I do like to learn new words, and it seems that there are new words being invented and added to our English repertoire all the time. An earlier update to the Oxford Dictionary (August 2015) had almost 1,000 new words and phrases (including slang) added to it. Some of these included manspreading, nuff said and awesomesauce.
New words are good (the first 2016 updates are starting to appear in the dictionaries now) but what about the old words? What about words we never see or hear used any more? What happens to them?
This week I came across the word Groak. (I am not sure what I was looking for but ‘groak’ definitely wasn’t it.) Groak means ‘to stare silently at someone while they are eating, in the hopes that they will give you some of their food’. Anyone who has ever had a dog, and likes a dinner of sausages on occasion, will be intimately aware of having been ‘groaked’ . . . So cool that I now have a word to put with that look.
Wondering what other weird and wonderful words I could find I did a bit of research and discovered that there are a huge number of archaeic or obsolete words that have now gone out of fashion. I have noted down some of the more colourful ones for you (and this is only a tiny selection . . . )
bibble: to drink often; to eat and/or drink noisily
(so Saturday night at the pub, then)
brabble: to argue loudly about something inconsequential
(probably at the same time you are bibbling)
slubberdegullion: a slovenly, slobbering person
(someone you know leaving the pub in complete ‘cattywampus’ (see next entry))
cattywampus: in disarray
crapulous: to feel ill because of excessive eating/drinking
(as in ‘I’m feeling totally crapulous today.’ It seems some words haven’t changed so very much at all.)
callipygian: Having beautifully shaped buttocks
(Okay nothing to do with the pub . . . unless the barmaid or barman is thus endowed.)
doodlesack: old English word for bagpipe
(Not at all what I thought of I when I first saw this word.)
tittynope: a small quantity of something left over
(Again, not my first guess.)
borborygmus: sound of intestinal gas
(and we’re back to eating and drinking at the pub again . . . )
Mogigraphia: Writer’s Cramp
(A signal to wrap this post up? )
I’m thinking I should send a short note to the Queen, drawing her attention to some of her country’s long forgotten words and suggesting that it might be a good idea to have one or two of them surreptitiously slipped in to one of her next speeches—
‘Members of Parliament have been meeting regularly this year, bibbling and brabbling in constant cattywampus, while one lone piper has valiantly piped forlornly on his doodlesack trying to cover the constant borborygmus . . . .’
Perhaps I shouldn’t hold out too much hope for an interview for the next speechwriter’s job opening . . .