Top Ten Tuesday: Weird and Wonderful Words

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is: Favorite Words (This isn’t so much bookish, but I thought it would be fun to share words we love! These could be words that are fun to say, sound funny, mean something great, or make you smile when you read/hear them.)

I’m using Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll as my source of fun words – more than ten. The illustrations are all from my old paperback copy of the book.

I think his poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking Glass is just perfect for my TTT post this week, full of weird and wonderful words.

illustration by John Tenniel

This was a great favourite of mine as a child and I still love the poem, Jabberwocky which begins:

Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch.

I had no idea what the words meant but I loved the sound of them and learned them off by heart. Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice that ‘brillig’ means ‘4 o’clock’, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’ and ‘toves’ are something like badgers  and lizards and corkscrews, to ‘gyre and gimble’ means to go round and round like a gyroscope and make holes like a gimlet and the ‘wabe’ is a grass-plot around a sundial – as shown in this illustration also  by John Tenniel:

In The Hunting of the Snark the Jujub bird is described in much greater depth than in Jabberwocky. It is found in a narrow, dark, depressing and isolated valley. Its voice when heard is described as a scream, shrill and high, like a pencil squeaking on a slate, and significantly it scares those who hear it. Frumious Carroll claimed, means a combination of fuming and furious and a bandersnatch is also described in Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, as a creature with a long neck and snapping jaws, and both works describe it as ferocious and extraordinarily fast. 

Wondrous Words

wondrous2Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.

These are some words from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens:

Usquebaugh – ‘what does my noble captain drink – is it brandy, rum, usquebaugh?’

This is obviously a drink of some sort, but I didn’t know what. Usquebaugh is Gaelic meaning “Water of Life”, phonetically it became “usky” and then “whisky” in English.

Flip – ‘every man … put down his sixpence for a can of flip, which grateful beverage was brewed with all dispatch, and set down in the midst of them on the brick floor; both that it might simmer and stew before the fire, and that its fragrant steam, rising up among them, and mixing with the wreaths of vapour from their pipes, might shroud them in a delicious atmosphere of their own and shut out all the world.’

Another intoxicating drink, I thought. Flip is eggnog, a drink of eggs and hot beer or spirits. I was interested to see it came in a can! Canning food was invented by a French chef in 1795 to preserve military food for Napoleon’s army. Barnaby Rudge, although written in 1839-41 when sealed cans similar to those we use now would have been in use, is set in 1775 and 1780 so Dickens was probably using the word to mean a container for holding liquid – or it’s an anachronism?

Poussetting – ‘Joe Willet rode leisurely along in his desponding mood, picturing the locksmith’s daughter going down long country dances, and poussetting dreadfully with bold strangers – which was almost too much to bear ...’

Poussette is simply a figure in country dancing when the couples hold hands and move up or down the set changing places with the next couple. And by the way Joe describes it he was thinking the locksmith’s daughter was being too familiar with strangers.

Wondrous Words

wondrous2Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.

I mentioned in my post on A Fearful Madness by Julius Falconer that there were some words I had to check in the dictionary. I’ve used the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to check the meaning of the following words

There are some words that I know I’ve looked up before and yet I just can’t remember what they mean and these are two of them:

Egregious: ‘After my consultation with the egregious Croft, I decided that action was what was needed.’ (page 70)

Egregious means:   ‘Remarkable in a bad sense; gross, flagrant, outrageous.’ The OED gives four definitions and I think this one fits the context the best. No wonder I can’t remember the meaning with four to chose from!

Exigent: ‘The woman was rough-tongued and exigent beyond belief: do this, do that, hurry up, I’m paying you enough, heaven knows, and so on.’ (page 177)

Exigent means: ‘Requiring a great deal; demanding more than is reasonable; exacting, pressing.’ I did know that after all!

Then there are these words:

Inchoate: ‘He murmured an inchoate prayer for guidance before rising and wandering at random round the church.’ (page 45)

Inchoate  – the OED gives two meanings: ‘Just begun, incipient; in an initial or early stage; hence elementary, imperfect, undeveloped, immature.’ and ‘Chaotic, disordered, confused; also, incoherent, rambling.’ I think the second meaning fits the context better.

Logorrhoeic: ‘Tea will do fine, thank you’. Ravensdale, unsure how best to break into the logorrhoeic flow without causing offence but impatient to hear whether she had any useful information for him or not, let her continue for a bit before broaching the subject of his visit. (page 115)

I thought this must have some connection with words and translated it in my head as ‘verbal diarrhoea’.

 Logorrhoea means ‘excessive volubility accompanying some forms of mental illness; also gen., an excessive flow of words, prolixity.’ I think logorrhoea sounds much better than ‘verbal diarrhoea’.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I came across this wondrous word yesterday when I visited Smailholm Tower, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. It’s: Barmkin and here is a photo –

Smailholm Tower and Barmkin Wall

A Barmkin is a stone perimeter wall, built to protect the courtyard and tower. This one at Smailholm was originally 6 ft thick, although most of it is a ruinous state now. My photo shows it at the western end where it remains with the only entrance gate into the courtyard.

I like the sound of this Scots word which is thought to be a corruption of the word barbican, meaning the outer fortified defence  of a city or castle.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme created by Kathy at BermudaOnion, where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.