"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."

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


 Miscegenation is a noun meaning the interbreeding of people of different racial types.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


Cat saw an article in The Old Foodie and said she thought of me.  At first I wondered if my spreading waist-line was the cause but then I realised it was the lovely word Croghton-Belly.

Unknown American artist, 1850’s-60’s, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A Croghton-Belly is a person who eats a great deal of fruit. It comes from 'A dictionary of archaic & provincial words, obsolete phrases ...' (1852), by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps.  It is said to come from Lancashire.  If you would like to find out more please visit the Old Foodie's article about A belly Full of Fruit!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The pilcrow

The pilcrow (¶), also called the paragraph mark, paragraph sign, paraph, alinea, or blind P, is a typographical character for individual paragraphs.

The pilcrow can be used as an indent for separate paragraphs or to designate a new paragraph in one long piece of copy. The pilcrow was a type of rubrication used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought, before the convention of visually discrete paragraphs was commonplace

The derivation of its name is as complex as its form. It originally comes from the Greek paragraphos(para, “beside” and graphein, “to write”), which led to the Old French paragraph, which evolved into pelagraphe and then pelagreffe. Somehow, the word transformed into the Middle English pylcrafte and eventually became the “pilcrow.”

Excerpt of a page from Villanova, Rudimenta Grammaticæ showing several pilcrow signs in the form common at that time, circa 1500 (image: Wikimedia commons).  

(Thanks to Mish for this word.)

Saturday, 20 July 2013


Pronounced (I think) sis-er-oh-knee, a cicerone is a guide who gives information about antiquities and places of interest to sightseers.  The word is derived from the Italian for antiquarian scholar, guide, after Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman consul, orator, and writer, alluding to the eloquence and erudition of these guides.

(If you want to learn more about Cicero I thoroughly recommend Robert Harris’ ‘Imperium’ (2006), a life of Cicero.  The book is fiction but is brilliantly researched and gives a real flavour of what the great man must have been like.)

Thanks, Monica, for bringing this word to mind.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


   I defined 'Gyre' in May and got the wonderful comment from Cat that she was waiting for Gimble!  Some people will have instantly recognised the reference to that superb nonsense poem by Lewis Carol from his 1871 novel 'Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.'  Its playful, whimsical language has given us nonsense words and neologisms such as "galumphing" and "chortle".

What many people may not know is that the first stanza was written while he was in Croft on Tees, close to Darlington, where he lived as a child, and it was printed in 1855 in Mischmasch, a periodical he wrote and illustrated for the amusement of his family. The piece was titled "Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry"

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe. 

(Note the spelling of Gymble changed to Gimble in the 1871 version).  Since Cat joked that she was was waiting for a definition of Gimble I decided to see if I could find one and I found four thanks to Merriam-webster and the Urban Dictionary -

As a verb it can mean to make a face or grimace or to make holes with a gimblet.
As a noun it means a  good-for-nothing or a compulsive liar.

So now we know!

The Jabberwock

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Sadly I am almost a dilapidator.  A dilapidator was a person who neglected an ancient building and allowed it to deteriorate.  The only difference in my case is that the building is not ancient – it is just beginning to look it because of all the outstanding jobs that are required.

Monday, 1 July 2013


Swither is a verb of Scottish origin and means to hesitate; vacillate; to be perplexed.

As a noun it means hesitation; perplexity; agitation.

I love the idea of swithering - it sounds just like its meaning.  (I looked up whether there was a word to describe a word that sounds like what it means such as hesitate but there isn't.  Onomatopoeia is about the nearest but that refers specifically to words that represent the sound such as bang and buzz.)