Chain of consequences

Chain of consequences

Grossman’s novel deals with a man who returns to ‘normal’ life after 30 years in the gulag.  Here he shows the extent to which words have consequences.  Words, spoken or written in this or that form of denunciation, translate into horrific suffering...
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This glorious word being no longer current, I invite you to revive it the next time someone does something daft or useless.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.  ...
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...
Worm-channered posts

Worm-channered posts

This suggests woodworm tunneled posts and I imagine that ‘channered’ refers to the tiny channels they carve on the surface of it. This possible channel-like definition is further reinforced by another example in the same book: ‘The trickles in the...
Couiner

Couiner

In this double-whammy week of French gloire, Bastille Day plus World Cup victoire, a half dozen proudly round sounding ooohh French words which have been playing in my ears since I stumbled upon them. First, a few onomatopoeic verbs and nouns, starting with...
Chuchoter

Chuchoter

What a lovely sh-sh-sh quiet whispering sound, meaning, indeed, ‘to whisper’.  A whisper is ‘un chuchotement’, and a whispered conversation is ‘une chuchoterie’. The whisperer, as in horses, is ‘un chuchoteur’ or...
Chuinter

Chuinter

To hoot (as in owl) or to hiss (as in snake).  ‘Chuintant’ is hushing, and ‘un chuintement’ is a hoot or a hiss. Another word for an owl’s hooting is closer to the English: hululer. See also ‘couiner’ and...
Roucouler

Roucouler

The second syllable has the clue, here is how to bill and coo… This soft word can mean to whisper sweet nothings, or if you’re less sentimental, you can use it to dismiss a singer as a mere crooner.  It can also evoke the cooing of a bird. The business of...
Roudoudou

Roudoudou

A wonderful word for a hard sweet or candy.  Put one in your mouth and then try saying ‘roudoudou’ five times. Second thoughts, better not, we mustn’t be choking on our words. The dictionary doesn’t give the plural, so may I ask French friends...
Boursoufler

Boursoufler

A word that rolls into its roundness the sound of blowing (‘souffler’), conveying something of its meaning: to swell, puff up, or in the case of paint, to blister. It can also be a reflexive verb, ‘se boursoufler’, and the noun is twofold:...
Nuannaarpoq

Nuannaarpoq

Can a word change a life? This Eskimo word changed mine and made me curious about a people who could create such a word. I’ve spent the last quarter of a century turning it over in my mind like a gleaming pebble in the palm of the hand, pondering what I could...
Quviannikumut

Quviannikumut

A glorious Eskimo word for feeling deeply happy – I wish you many moments of quviannikumut. ‘Sitting high on a sea cliff in sunny, blustery weather in late June – the familiar sense of expansiveness, of deep exhilaration such weather brings over one,...
Isumataq

Isumataq

Barry Lopez’ masterful Arctic Dreams gave me an inkling of a richly philosophical seam in the Eskimo language. If you sit down and watch, read or listen to the news, you may despair at the apparent absence of anything resembling an isumataq in the upper echelons...

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