"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Inexpressibles - During the Victorian era it was not considered polite for a lady to describe gentlemen as wearing breeches so they were called inexpressibles. Although the word was occasionally used for women's underwear it was far more frequently used for men's outer legwear - breeches or trousers.
By contrast the word more likely to be used nowadays - unmentionables - is far more usually appled to ladies' underwear.
After this, there was a good deal of dodging about, and hitching up of the inexpressibles in the absence of braces, and then the short sailor (who was the moral character evidently, for he always had the best of it) made a violent demonstration and closed with the tall sailor, who, after a few unavailing struggles, went down, and expired in great torture as the short sailor put his foot upon his breast, and bored a hole in him through and through.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Dickens, Charles
I had barely the time, as he made for the cabin door, to grab him by the seat of his inexpressibles.
Falk - A Reminiscence by Conrad, Joseph
A French dictionary defines inexpressibles as follows - Mot anglais dit par euphémisme pour culotte, pantalon, et employé quelquefois en ce sens en français par plaisanterie (An English word spoken as a euphemism for pants or trousers and sometimes used jokingly in this sense in French.)
My daughter Helen commented in November 2008 in her Blog that she was now keeping a notebook of new words that she came across during her reading. "This week I bought a lovely little leather bound book to write new words in as I read them . I've added a few from "1984", but my favourite has to be persiflage (from the French persifler) which means banter." I later discovered that my older daughter, Bryony, also kept a similar notebook.
This inspired me to create a Word blog. This will include both new words, favourite words and the origins of phrases that we commonly use. A definition and some comment, perhaps even a relevant quotation, will acompany the word or phrase.
“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh
I'm a blogger - nowadays that seems to be my main occupation and Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. I enjoy all manner of communication apart from the telephone and am constantly e-mailing, texting, writing postcards and letters and commenting on other people's blogs.
Scriptor Senex is Latin for Old Writer and my real name is John but I've almost forgotten that nowadays...
“He’s not so old. He’s just the age that he is, that’s all.” (Gerald Hammond)