Lauzengier

Lauzengier

Lauzengier (also ‘lauzenger’) appears in the songs of French troubadours.  An old Occitan word but surely one which it may be timely to pluck from the shelves of medieval obscurity, dust down, and tip into general circulation. Use its soothing lozenge-y...
Gulch it down

Gulch it down

Mervyn Peake uses Rabelaisian vocabulary to describe the gargantuan appetites and appearance of Swelter, the castle cook in his Gormenghast trilogy.  Here, in Titus Groan, the thirst-quencher is poured:… down his throat in one dull gurgle to those unmentionable...
Mummarella

Mummarella

You would know the ‘true’ octopus if you saw it, wouldn’t you? Reading a book about Mediterranean seafood, Luiz learned that according to an authoritative Italian cook book, the true octopus has a double row of suckers on each tentacle, as opposed to...
Ullage of sunflower

Ullage of sunflower

Something about this word that you can roll around the mouth like a good swig of wine or cognac, the removal of which would result in its ullage in the barrel or bottle. The Oxford English Dictionary says it refers to the ‘amount of wine or other liquor by which...
Cragfast

Cragfast

Stuck?  In a tight corner?  No going forward … or back?  Call yourself Cragfast. A sheep cornered on a crag, to starve in the absence of rescue. It happens to people too, hope never to me or you. In Arthur Ransome’s Winter Holiday an intrepid boy edges...
Gummocks

Gummocks

This glorious word being no longer current, I invite you to revive it the next time someone does something daft or useless. Perhaps combine it alliteratively with ‘galoot’. ‘Fair couple of gummocks, I’d call you,’ said Mrs Dixon.  ...
A pippin but not an apple

A pippin but not an apple

I always knew the word pippin to be a type of apple, but then came across a reference to ‘the expression of his pippin face’. According to the OED, it was originally a derogatory term referring to a ‘young, foolish, or naive person’. However,...
Trim, trig and tickety-boo

Trim, trig and tickety-boo

Came across the upright word ‘trig’ in another of Arthur Ransome’s charming children’s adventure stories, Winter Holiday, which I read on suitably cold, blustery nights. It seems the word is used only in Scotland or in northern English dialect...
Szkupcsina

Szkupcsina

This intriguing word turned up in Miklos Banffy’s superb Transylvanian Trilogy, tracing the decline of the Hungarian aristocracy in the years up to the start of the First World War.  He mentions szkupcsina as referring to ‘the disgruntled old armchair...
Time to latibulate

Time to latibulate

‘Lockdown’ sounds wretchedly penal and miserably incarcerate, so I was delighted to meet this alternative. How much more pleasant to ‘latibulate’, as defined by Mr. Cockeram in his 1623 English Dictionary as ‘privily to hide ones selfe in...
The tum-ti-tums of poetry

The tum-ti-tums of poetry

The best and most memorable summary of the difference between an ‘iambic’, a ‘spondee’ and a ‘trochee’, by the author of a marvelous biography of George Herbert. Incidentally, an engaging lesson in poetics. ‘Verse moves along...
The cuckolds’ collective

The cuckolds’ collective

An imaginative collective noun for the poor cuckold, perhaps the last person to see, or believe, what is going on. I wonder if this originally meant something closer to ‘an incredulity’, which feels more...

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