Words

Sharing words that sparkle, appeal, intrigue or otherwise grab me, including those in other languages.

The letter quoted below conveys the exuberant love of words perfectly, as well as being a world class job application.

And adoring alliteration, new words will be added on Wednesdays… Wednesday, word day.   See you back here then.

Juggymire

'He lay still in sleep, and they forgot that he was there, and flew down to find worms by pushing their long bills into the juggymire.' Another Williamson word which doesn't show up in the OED's 600,000 word hoard.  I can only imagine it's a dialect word...

Clitter

'Tarka gave chase to a rabbit during the next night, bolting it from a hillside clitter of rocks in a hollow at the head of a cleave.' This seems a variant of 'clatter' and you can imagine rocks and scree pattering and clattering down the hill with an...

Skirl

'The owl was hearkening, however, for the prick of the claws of mice on leaves, and when it heard these tiny noises, it stared until it saw movement, and with a skirling screech that made the mouse crouch in a fixity of terror sailed to the ground and...

Quaddle

'He quaddled down the hard mud ... ' A charming variant of 'waddle', also written 'quoddle'. Since ducks are known for waddling, you wonder if 'quaddle' emerged when someone witnessed a waddle and a quack while crossing a puddle and muddled the two....

Frore

'The only noises in the frore air were of saws and axes and hammers.' Now limited to dialect use, this is a variant of 'frozen' and can also be 'froren' or 'frorn'. Perhaps just a necessary contraction in the frozen air. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the...

Sog

'Down a crumbling sog of peat and into the still brown-clear water.' Of course, we speak of 'soggy' pasta or trifle sponges, but never had it occurred to me that what is sog-gy must have a 'sog' behind or beneath it. So, a sog is a marsh, quagmire, swamp...

Scruddick, scuddick, scriddick and scrikkit

'... very soon all the trout was gone except a scruddick, or fragment, of the tail.' Williamson uses 'scruddick' to refer to a leftover trout tail. The OED defines 'scuddick' as an 'extremely small coin or amount' or 'something very small'. Variants are...

Potwalloper

'... potwallopers grazing marsh.' This is a variant of 'potwaller', a curious and arcane English method of deciding who gets to vote in a borough.  According to the OED: 'A male householder or lodger with his own separate fireplace on which a pot could be...

Whippering

'... the whippering cries of golden plover.' This seems to be a Williamson coinage to describe the cry of a bird.  I haven't found it in the Big Fat OED, source of all (English) words.  See also 'stitter' and 'chitter'. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the...

Crackey, ackymal and ruddock

'The crackeys and ackymals and ruddocks - Devon names for wrens and tomtits and robins ...' All words for birds, delightful Devon names of which only 'ruddock' appears in the OED.  Glad to feature the other two lest they fall into oblivion. And put...

Chakker

'... other noises were mingled with the chakkering.' In this form, I couldn't find this word in the OED, but assume it might be related to 'chack' and 'chacking', a mainly Scottish verb meaning: 'To snap with the teeth; to squeeze or crush with a snap of...

Chitter

'Hearing them, an ackymal that had been searching the streamside hawthorn boughs for green caterpillars flittered to the islet and chittered beside the crackey.' An alternative to 'twitter', 'chirp' or 'chatter'.  I liked Williamson's combination of...

Pobble, schmobble

'Below the stone setts and pobbles of the wall's apron ...' Couldn't find this 'pobble' in the 600,000 words of the OED, until I realized it must be referring to 'setts and cobbles'.   A 'sett' is a cobblestone and the two are often mentioned together. I...

Stitter

'Robins ticked at him, wrens stittered.' Perhaps another sound imitation coined by Williamson?  His slim account of an otter's joyous life and valiant death has a number of words evoking bird and otter sounds, several of which don't occur in the OED's...

Quap or quop

'At the time of capture the drake had been trying to swallow a frog, by quapping with its bill, which held one of the legs.' Lovely word this, though not for the frog (or the drake, who was quapped in turn).  Another fine sounding verb which seems to be...

Vuz-peg

Perhaps a dialect word, used by Willliamson as referring to a hedgehog.  It doesn't seem to appear in the OED's 600,000 word dictionary, but I am proud to say that a friendly vuz-peg frequents our garden almost nightly. See also 'errin-og' for another...

Errin-og

Williamson says this is a 'name given by fishermen to porpoises', perhaps in dialect.  It doesn't appear in the massive OED. See also 'vuz-peg' for another quirky animal name. Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death in...

Arrish

'He galloped joyfully down a field of arrish, or stubble.' A word now enclosed in a shrinking field of dialect use, describing stubble or a field of stubble. The OED mentions a former meaning of grass or clover or other aftergrowth following mowing.  In...

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...

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 'une chuchoteuse'. If your whispering is in...

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

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...

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 to confirm...

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: 'boursouflage'...

Ragrowster

'The dog thought this was fun, and ragrowstered with her under and on the water all the way to Leaning Willow Island.' 'And here they left the water for a ragrowster.' A round sound which seems to mean something like 'roister' or 'roistering'.  Boisterous,...

Elver (or yelver)

'... waited for loach or beetle or shrimp or elver or troutling.' Ever wondered what the term is for a young eel?  Now you know. An elver or yelver to add to the cubs, kittens, puppies and ducklings with which you are already familiar.  And the troutlings....

Yikker or yicker

'A score of hearts under browny-red coats beat faster at the otter's chiding yikker as she picked up her cub by the neck and carried him to the shore.' Repeated short, sharp cries made by a bird or other animal, here applied to otters.  See also 'yinny'...

Skirr (or skyr, skir, sker and so on)

'... and skirred to its mate ...' A swift, sweeping, sailing sort of word which obviously means to flee or to fly, run, sail or otherwise shift at speed. In dialect it can mean to slide or skate quickly. By extension, to traverse a stretch of land or water...

Belve

'The great pied hound with the belving tongue.' Williamson uses this several times to describe baying hounds in pursuit of the valiant otter Tarka.  According to the OED it's an English regional word, mainly from the south-west, where Williamson wrote his...

Dimmit dimmity

An English south-west dialect word for dusk or twilight, hinted at in the opening 'dim...'. 'At dimmity it flew down the right bank of the river ...' 'At dimmit light ...' Not to be confused with 'dimity', a strong cotton fabric woven with stripes or...

Gytrash

Also spelled 'guytrash', this isn't a term of abuse to describe men; it's an apparition or spectre in animal-form, or as defined more specifically by Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre, a 'Northern English monster, a horse, mule or large dog which haunted...

Threap

'They were so agreeable with each other—never fell out nor ‘threaped’. This delightful word is now limited to Scottish and northern dialect, unless we choose to use it more widely. Its meaning here is 'to rebuke, reprove, chide, scold or blame'.  By...

Ammil

This wondrous word, describing a complex and ethereal effect of light, is mercifully preserved for posterity by Williamson. It doesn't yet appear in the 600,000 word-hoard of the OED. May you enjoy many magical Ammil mornings. 'When the sun, like an...

Tarka

'He was called Tarka, which was the name given to otters many years ago by men dwelling in hut circles on the moor.  It means Little Water Wanderer, or, Wandering as Water.' The apt and lovely name of the eponymous otter and Williamson's book about him, a...

Yinny

'She ate it ravenously, half-standing in shallow water, yinnying at shadows as she clawed and swallowed.' 'With a yinny of anger she threw him off.' This otter cry of fear, anger or desperation seems to have been invented by Williamson or taken from his...

Tiss

'When he noticed that it was looking at him. The look frightened him as he tissed at it.' 'He lay still, his heart throbbing, blowing and tissing and slavering.' Another otter sound that Williamson uses a number of times and which is not found in the...

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 build...

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, combined with the...

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 of...

Quinuituq

Good things come to those who wait? This Eskimo word evokes a quality that purveyors of instant gratification wouldn't like, a kind of deep patience in allowing long-awaited events to materialize. 'The long wait at a seal hole for prey to surface. Waiting for a lead...

Oomingmannuna

How could I resist this word, magical in its rounded sounds, even if its meaning may not give most of us much pretext to make regular use of it: ‘where the muskoxen have their country’. Say it three times in quick succession, whether or not there are muskoxen nearby....

Perlerorneq

May you be ever spared this suffocating, madness-inducing winter depression.  Lopez describes the misery or insanity it can bring on, and the compassion often shown to those who succumb to it.  It seems a product of endless cold and darkness, but it has an...

Palstave

This is a Bronze Age bronze adze-axe.  I really need to bone up on implement naming. Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 124

Mathemagician

An intriguing portmanteau word.  I once had a maths teacher who deserved this title.  She was great at maths, certainly, but the magic came in getting a class full of 12 year olds of all capabilities performing years ahead of the norm. While only teaching one double...

Slumgullion

A deliciously awful North American word meaning a cheap or insubstantial stew.  Can't recall what I was reading to come across such a fine description for some kind of soupy slop. Anyhow, it does remind me of the rather thin and institutional-tasting vegetable soup I...

Gollop

A hasty gulp, or to gulp down hastily or greedily.  I wonder if it's a half way mix between 'gobble' and 'gulp'.  Anyhow, next time you are sitting opposite a troughing trencherman, you can say, 'Oh do stop golloping!'

Hachkars (khachkars)

Hachkars (or khachkars) are Armenian stone crosses. 'You encounter these hachkars all over Armenia, for they were the symbols of Armenian existence, or else boundary markers, and also, sometimes, signposts.  You can find old hachkars in the most inaccessible places,...

Patarks

I found this in Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium, but can find no other reference to it.  Perhaps the spelling is different, though I have tried variants.  I am now intrigued and would like to hear these haunting, beautiful psalms.  If they exist. 'A kind of Armenian...

Objurgate

Luckily I have rarely been subjected to objurgation.  Doesn't it sound stern?  It means to rebuke or scold severely.  To be used sparingly, though you could ask someone giving you a hard time to 'kindly rein in your objurgatory tone'.

Tantivy

A rapid gallop or ride; a hunting cry; moving or riding swiftly.  May all your dreams tantivy-o!

Chryselephantine

'Chryselephantine' means made of, or adorned with, gold and ivory, as in this figurine.  Only just came across this word though I wonder how I missed it these five decades.  Must be moving in the wrong circles. Chryso- is obviously gold-related and the elephantine...

A covert of coots

A covert is a shelter or a hiding place, from which you might study coots.  It can also refer to a thicket in which game can hide.  Does this aquatic bird hide itself in thickets (or reeds), to be given this collective noun? See also my review of Arthur Ransome's Coot...

A rake of colts

A curious collective noun for young horses. Does their occasional prancing exuberance make them look rakish?

A bask of crocodiles

Delightful collective noun this, suggesting a harmless creature soaking up the sun on a warm mud bank.  Just don't tread on one when it's basking.  Or ever.  And remember:   Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily-oh, life is but a...

A murder of crows

A memorable collective noun, though perhaps unfair on the poor old crow.  I have a soft spot for these intelligent and social birds and am not aware that they are any more murderous than other hungry birds.

A cowardice of curs

What a pity we no longer use 'cur' to objurgate someone.   And how appropriate that the collective noun should be 'a cowardice'.  We could perhaps adapt this collective noun to other contexts, as in 'a cowardice of leaders'.

A herd of curlew

The first time I have come across 'herd' as a collective noun for a bird.  Curlews are large wading birds of the sandpiper family, with a long down-curved bill and brown mottled plumage.  They apparently hang out in herds.

Disseverment

The noun of 'dissever', to divide or sever something from something else.  Also 'disseverance'.  Used here in reference to a severely split personality. 'For it is probable that when people talk aloud, the selves (of which there may be more than two thousand) are...

Pinchbeck

Wishing you the real McCoy, not the alloy. 'An alloy invented by Christopher Pinchbeck, looking like gold and used to make cheap jewellery.' Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando, ed. Rachel Bowlby, Oxford: World's Classics, 1992, p. 334

Soilure

A smudge, stain or soiling, or the act of soiling.  May you be free of it in all its guises. '... free from taint, dependence, soilure of humanity or care for one's kind; something rash, ridiculous, like my hyacinth, husband I mean, Bonthrop...' Source: Virginia...

Kine

An archaic plural for 'cows', used here as Orlando gets carried away on a roller-coaster of metaphors. 'She likened the hills to ramparts, to the breasts of doves, and the flanks of kine. She compared the flowers to enamel and the turf to Turkey rugs worn thin.  Trees...

Marl

A sedimentary clay and lime rock or soil which used to be used as a fertilizer: clearly it is this meaning in the Woolf quotation below.   It also refers to a mottled yarn of different colours, or cloth made of this.  'Marly' is the adjective. And enjoy Orlando's...

Teg

A sheep in its second year, between weaning and shearing.  So now nobody can look down their aristocratic nose at you for not knowing a teg from a ewe. And while on the sheep theme, see also: 'hefted', 'shearling' and above all my resplendent review of James...

Wishing you a happy jólabókaflóð!

This lovely word is Icelandic for 'Christmas book flood'.  As you may know, Iceland is home to the world's most committed readers and it has long been a tradition to give books at Christmas.   This leads to a flood of new publications in the preceding months, with a...

The valley of Tempe

The valley of Tempe in Greece is often used in Latin poetry to denote a beautiful place. '... now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall...' Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando, ed. Rachel Bowlby, Oxford: World's Classics, 1992, p. 79 and...

Cressets

One of those things you've probably seen on a hundred old buildings and never noticed.  I think I recently saw - and noticed - some rather ornate wall-mounted versions in the old town of Geneva. 'Iron containers for grease or oil to burn as lamps; usually mounted on...

Purlieus

A rarely used word (at least in the circles in which I move) referring to the area near or surrounding a place, or to one's usual haunts.  Hard to imagine using it nowadays except in jest. 'The street lanterns in these purlieus were few at most... ' '... the irregular...

Bumboat

An unforgettable name for a small vessel carrying goods for sale to ships in port.  The dictionary assures me that 'bum' is in the sense of a 'vagrant' not a part of the British anatomy.  It seems to be of late 17th century origin, and original referred to a boat...

Orgulous

Though this clearly derives from the French orgueil, I had never seen it in this anglicised version.  No wonder, according to the dictionary it had become rare by the 16th century until it was revived by the Victorian writers Robert Southey and Sir Walter Scott as a...

Helve

The handle of a weapon or tool.  Such a simple word, how come I never came across it before?  Did you?

Shim

I've made or used one of these dozens of times but never knew what it was called.  A shim is a washer or a thin strip of material used to align something, or make it fit, or reduce wear.  To shim means to use such a piece of material to fill a gap, as when you wedge a...

Disquisition

A word I have never seen used until now, which seems like a missed opportunity for dressing up your discourse in more eloquent wrapping: a long or elaborate essay or discussion on a particular subject.  By extension, disquisitively describes being in disquisition...

Hodden brown

The notes to Virginia Woolf's Orlando say 'hodden' is a coarse, woollen cloth and the word therefore came to mean a natural, rustic colour, hence 'hodden brown'. And the man whose ruff was 'a thought dirty', who was fat and shabby in his hodden clothes?  Orlando...

Mouldywarp

A curious and endearing term of Middle English origin, but now archaic or dialect only, although deserving revival.  It means a mole, as in the animal who leaves mounds upon your croquet lawn.   Also mouldwarp, or mouldiwarp. The wise and beloved creature in Kenneth...

Wicker cradle, basket pram

A bassinette (generally spelled 'bassinet') was an oblong wicker basket with a hood at one end, used as a cradle or a pram.  Virginia Woolf has them decorating a statue with out-of-control Victorian ornamentation. Crystal Palace was a real glass palace, built by the...

Bombazine

The note in Woolf's Orlando says this was a 'twilled or corded dress material made of silk and worsted; in black, it was much used to make mourning clothes.'   For me it is a word that immediately evokes the whole Victorian era and rustling, dark crinolines. Source:...

Dustsceawung

A sobering if orthographically challenging and barely pronounceable Old English word meaning 'the contemplation of dust'.  Not a question of staring at evidence of your lackadaisical house-cleaning, but rather the contemplation of the remains of the past, and the...

Pightle

An unusually spelled word with that g-h-t-l and a fine glottal stop.  Of obscure Middle English origin meaning a small field or enclosure. I wish you daisies and buttercups in your pightle.

Slummock

Glorious word this, describing a dirty, untidy or slovenly person, or behaving in a lazy, indolent or clumsy way, as in 'You've slummocked in bed for weeks'.   'Stop slummocking, will you?' Now, where did I find this word?  I'm too lazy to go and find out. May you...

Caracole

Literally, a half turn made by a horse to the left or the right, which can also be a verb, 'to caracole'.   Deriving from the 17th century French 'caracole' meaning a snail's shell or spiral.  I love this figurative use by Virginia Woolf in Orlando, and the word's...

Scrolloping

A portmanteau word created by Virginia Woolf, apparently combining 'scroll' and 'lollop' to describe heavy, florid ornament, or a rambling mode of speech, namely, 'proceeding in involutions, rambling'. 'For when he tore the parchment across, he tore, in one rending,...

Care for a corantoe?

A French dance, identical to the 'courante', with which I trust you are familiar.  The lavolta is also a dance, 'for two persons consisting a good deal in high and active bounds'. Don't attempt this at home without adult supervision. 'Orlando, it is true, was none of...

Hefted

The sheep are ‘hefted’, taught a sense of belonging to a place by their mothers when they are lambs.   They never lose the memory of that place, such as a specific hill-side.

A scrawny, buttermilk-faced young besom

A besom is a broom made of twigs tied around a stick, though in Scottish & Northern English it's also a derogatory term for a woman or girl. 'A scrawny, buttermilk-faced young besom, allus askin' questions an' pokin' tha' nose where it wasna' wanted.'   Source:...

Graidely or gradely

Graidely seems an alternative spelling to 'gradely' which means fine and good; promising and likely; being in good health or physically attractive; fitting and proper. "He's took a graidely fancy to thee.  He wants to see thee and he wants to see Soot an' Captain."  ...

Fair moithered

Bothered or bewildered.  'Moither' can also mean to ramble or speak in a confused way. 'Mother's a good-tempered woman, but she gets fair moithered.'   Source: Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, illus. Inga Moore (London: Walker Books, 2009) (1911), p....

An abundance of afflatus

A divine creative impulse or inspiration, from Latin afflare, 'to' plus 'to blow'. Wishing you an abundance of afflatus.   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 11

Daffydowndilly

Another and charming word for 'daffodils', which are also more commonly referred to as 'daffs'. "Crocuses an' snowdrops an' daffydowndillys.  Has tha' never seen them?"   Source: Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, illus. Inga Moore (London: Walker Books,...

Bombinate

A beautiful bumble-bee buzzing about.  The dictionary insists this is a literary term for to 'buzz or hum' but such a round, friendly sound deserves more widespread use. For example, there are three trees in front of me that are full of tiny blossoms and every spring,...

Scramasax

A large knife with a single-edged blade, found among Anglo-Saxon grave goods, used for hunting and fighting. ‘I’ve heard of a Varangian grown too old to raise shield or scramasax.' Source: ‘Harald in Byzantium’, The Breaking Hour, Kevin Crossley-Holland (London:...

Jantelagen

A Swedish word used in the north of England – the unwritten rule that forbids anyone to feel or act superior to his or her neighbour.

Acuminate

A leaf tapering to a point; could we use it to encourage people to get to the point: ‘Oh for goodness sake, why can’t you just acuminate?’

Skobby

Another word for 'chaffinch', though it seems obsolete.  Not that this should prevent our reviving it, it has a charming, affectionate sound. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction by Pamela Woof (Oxford: Oxford World’s...

Fretted

This use of 'fretted' seems to mean worn or damaged by weather, and 'teazed' is an old spelling of 'teased', here apparently meaning pulled or damaged. I know what she means about the weeds... we have bad hair days, bad garden days, glad to know that even the...

Clapping linen

This seems to mean something like smoothing out and folding linen, though it would baffle people now. 'Mary walked to Ambleside for letters, it was a wearisome walk for the snow lay deep upon the Roads & it was beginning to thaw.  I stayed at home & clapped...

Pulling apples

Wordsworth uses this term several times - apparently an obsolete term for picking or gathering apples. 'We pulled apples after dinner, a large basket full.'  Sunday 12 October 1800. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction...

Flowering and marking

Dorothy Wordsworth refers to 'flowering and marking', meaning to embroider identification signs on linen.  I recently bought some wonderful, secondhand and fine quality bedlinen, with flowers and monograms beautifully embroidered along the top edge of what appear to...

Scrimshank

A playful, crunchy sounding word. Edmund de Waal uses this to suggest all over the place, at random: ‘bricks are piled scrimshanks’.   However, the dictionary refers to a ‘scrimshank’ as one who shirks their duty, especially someone in the armed forces.

Jouncing

Jolting or bouncing, an apparently neat melding of both words. ‘Glaring at me staring at him / jouncing on her right wrist.' Source: ‘Girl with hawk’, The Breaking Hour, Kevin Crossley-Holland (London: Enitharmon Press, 2015), p. 65

Anagnorisis

Normally referring to the moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery, perhaps understanding the real situation for the first time.   I liked Nicolson’s use of it in describing Keats’ discovery of Homer: ‘Keats had read and stared in...

Clàr

Scottish Gaelic: plural clàran.  A dish, three to four feet long, 18" wide, made of deal, with straw or grass on the bottom; a communal dish from which the family ate, with the food crumbs and straw being given to the animals after. Other meanings given by Wiktionary...

Syke (or sike)

Scottish & N. English: Alternative spelling of 'sike' meaning a small stream or rill, typically one that flows through marshy ground and is often dry in summer. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction by Pamela Woof...

Annaid

Scottish: this seems to be bound up with many place names and to refer to an old church which, for one reason or another, was abandoned and subsequently replaced at a different site. Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013...

Tacksman

Scottish: no, not the man who keeps asking you for huge chunks of your hard-earned money.  This refers to a man who holds a tack from another, a tenant.  In Scottish law, a tack is a contract by which something is let, hired or leased to another. 'Tacksman's house.'...

Machair

Machair refers to low-lying arable or grazing land formed near the coast by the deposit of sand and shell fragments by the wind, in Scotland, particularly in the Western Isles. '... the beautiful, easily worked machair of Barra itself.' Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea...

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Dear Sir,

I like words.  I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as strait-laced, cantankerous, pectinous, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp. 

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around. 

I have just returned and I still like words. May I have a few with you? 

Robert Pirosh

 

Source: Letter No. 009, quoted in Letters of Note, compiled by Shaun Usher (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013), p. 36

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