"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."

Friday, 21 December 2012

Aga saga (and bodice rippers!!)

I have had for a while the Oxford Dictionary of new words - 'the intriguing srtories behind 2000 new words in the news'.  I have only  just got around to opening it and taking it seriously.  I've just finished the letter 'A' so you can expect a few 'A' words in the near future. My first is Aga saga.

An aga saga is a form of popular novel typically set in a semi-rural location and concerning the domestic and emotional lives of middle-class characters. In some contexts, Ága saga is now synonymous with a sanitized and prettified picture of rural life.

Joanna Trollope is said to be the author of some typical aga sagas.

Monday, 17 December 2012


   Are you a librocubicularist?

I discovered today that I am a librocubicularist.

Mind you, if a word begins with the magic letters 'libr' (from the Latin for book) there's a good chance I'm one.

A librocubicularist is simply 'one who reads in bed'.


 Now it just so happens I know someone who reads somewhere else (don't you, GB!).  But I don't think that has a name yet...

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Super-duper, also spelled super duper, super dooper or super-dooper means extremely good, powerful, large, etc.; ‘very super’; marvellous or colossal; a really awesome or amazing thing, often involving something or someone supernatural or exciting.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012



 This noun is an ecclesiastical one and refers to the box or vessel in which the reserved Eucharist or Host is kept.  It is also used for the small watch-shaped container used for carrying the Eucharist to the sick.

A pyx or pyx-chest is also a box or chest at a mint, in which specimen coins are deposited and reserved for trial by weight and assay.

 The Trial of the Pyx is the procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to required standards. Trials have been held from the twelfth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year; the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD. They are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of assayers. The "Pyx" is the boxwood chest  in which coins are placed for presentation to the jury.  It can also be spelled pix.

Trials are now held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths; formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster. Given modern production methods, it is unlikely that coins would not conform, but this was a problem in the past.  It was tempting for the Master of the Mint to steal precious metals and turn out coins fractionally smaller or lighter than they should have been.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wrack or Rack

Wrack and rack can have such similar meanings that it can be difficult to know which to use at times. 

To wrack is to destroy; to trash; to wreck.

To rack - to torture; to distress acutely; to torment; to strain in mental effort; to strain by physical force or violence; to strain beyond what is normal or usual.

Both wrack and rack can therefore mean to cause the ruin of something and whilst in some contexts the difference may be obvious in others it is so subtle that either may be used. 

The use of the spelling wrack rather than rack in sentences such as 'she was wracked by grief' or 'the country was wracked by civil war' is very common but is thought by many people (myself included) to be incorrect.  In other words, one is racked by grief or civil war.

As a noun, a wrack is a wrecked ship; a shipwreck; something destroyed or the remnant of something destroyed.

Wrack therefore means collapse or destruction and is the correct word to use in the phrase wrack and ruin.  The above is therefore a wrack going to wrack and ruin.

Wrack is also any of a number of coarse brown seaweeds of the genera Fucus, Ascophyllum, and Pelvetia.

A rack is also a tier (a series of rows placed one above another) and is specifically often used in the context of a tier of stereo or computer equipment.

  The rack was an instrument of torture in medieval times.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Eftsoon, sadly, is a word no longer in use.  It should be.  I think it sounds wonderful;.  It means soon afterwards; or anew, repeatedly or once again.

Please can we have our word back??  If someone re-introduced it to the language I would use it eftsoon.