Showing posts with label British lingo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British lingo. Show all posts

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Earwig or Eavesdrop

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 200:


To earwig is to annoy or attempt to influence by way of private discussion.  In Britain, this is another word for "eavesdrop."  This comes from an insect of the same name, a long-bodied little creature with pinchers.  In the Anglo-Saxon days (which shows just how old the word is), earwigs were thought to crawl into the human ear.  I know what you're thinking: eww and oww!  I'd imagine that this would be a medieval explanation for madness or demon possession... or perhaps medieval term for, well, bugged or wired. As if the creature is a piece of demonic espionage equipment.  Purely a conjecture straight out of my wacky imagination.  I prefer not to think of the ear-bugs (who would?) but the little insistent whispers that give away an earwigging discussion.

Eavesdropping fascinates me, too.  Not only does this verb mean "listening in on someone else's conversation", but it had its origins in the 1600s... a person who supposedly stood under the eaves of someone's house to listen to the conversations within.  The eavesdrop, according to Oxford Dictionaries, was actually the ground directly below the eaves, where the water runs off. 

Which word is your favorite: earwig or eavesdrop?

Eavesdrop by Marsha Aninditha

Friday, March 15, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 185:


To remove an article of wear (clothing: jacket, hat etc) from the body - taking off ones hat as a sign of respect.  In a more general sense it means to rid oneself of something or put it aside.  Think of Mr. Darcy taking off his hat to Lizzie Bennet.

Top Hat
British gentleman doffing his hat by Alistair

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thursday, December 6, 2012

AIL Day 86: quaint

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Quaint is another Britishism (I do love those) meaning "attractively unusual or old-fashioned." 

Though I like to think of this as a compliment, it can also be used as an insult.  I remember venturing to the east coast to visit Michelle and observing that all the tall multistory houses were rather quaint.  Michelle turned to me and said, "You meant that in a nice way, didn't you?" If you're a fan of Sherlock, I know I've heard it in there as an insult insinuating: "Oh, isn't that quaint? Aren't you silly and simple-minded?  What a tiny brain you have."  Funny how the same word can have two faces.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

AIL Day 84: ken

The adventure in logophilia for 4 December is/was


Ken is a noun meaning the range of vision, perception, understanding or knowledge; sight or view.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, this word is often seen in Northern English and Scottish dialects, meaning "know" or "identify." 

Friday, November 30, 2012

AIL Day 80: jiggery-pokery

Today's adventure in logophilia is


This is British term for dishonest or suspicious activity; or your basic nonsense, hocus-pocus, higgeldy-piggeldy.  It's puckish sound gives away its meaning... Puck sitting in a tree throwing something at you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

AIL Day 76: boffin

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Boffin (noun) is a British term for a scientific expert, especially one involved in (but not limited to) technological research.  In other words, an enthusiastic nerd.  We're all boffins about something, believe me. Life is better that way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

AIL Day 69: puckish

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Puckish (adjective) means impish or whimsical; playful - especially in a mischevious way.  Taken, of course, from the mythological fairy Robin Goodfellow, an Old English/Celtic "puca."  You may remember him from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Depictions of him have him resembling a faun (Mr. Tumnus) or a satyr with a goat's hooves and long, pointed ears (eyebrows to match).  I love this word, because I envision puck sitting in a tree with a wink and a grin to rival Peter Pan's.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 55: Guy Fawkes Day (j)

Today's phrase is...

Guy Fawkes Day
... or Bonfire Night

Yes, another Britishism.  If you've seen V for Vendetta, you'll have heard "remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot..."  In 1605, Guy Fawkes was one of a group of anarchists arrested for a plot to assassinate James I of England for not promoting greater tolerance for Catholic practices in England.  He was caught guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords.  James I had only been king of England for less than two years.  The plotters were arrested and later executed (hanged, drawn and quartered) for treason.  Effigies of Fawkes were burnt around this time, remembering the event-that-wasn't - a chilling anti-Catholic practice.  These days, effigies of celebrities and detested politicos are burnt instead. 

This is a very elementary explanation of the Gunpowder Plot.  (I've had a lot of interruptions this morning.) When I went to England and learned about the bonfires, I thought it was a fun post-Halloween autumn celebration.  Then, I learned about its cruel history in post-Reformation England and changed my mind. 

Adventures in Logophilia Day 53: twee (j)

The word for 3 November was/is...


Twee is a British expression, an adjective, meaning affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, quaint or cute.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 49: fell (j)

Today's Halloweenish word is...

Fell (an adjective) is a semi-archaic word that means fierce, cruel, terrible, sinister and malevolent.  It can also mean sharp or pungent (I'm assuming on terms of odors.)  I first heard this word when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring, only I didn't know it at the time.  The Fellowship attempts to climb the mountains over Moria, and Saruman is thwarting their progress by means of sorcery and chants.  Legolas percieves that something is amiss and says "There is a fell voice on the air."  Only at the time, I thought he said "There is a foul voice on the air," which seems just as appropriate.  I don't think I realized the different until I actually read the book. 

A fell is also a noun meaning a high barren field or moor, such as this one.  This picture was taken in North Yorkshire on Skipton Moor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 36: St. Luke's Summer (Jillian)

Today's word/phrase is...

Saint Luke's summer

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Saint Luke's summer (a British term) is a period of fine weather around the 18th of October, which is Saint Luke's feast day.  I honestly don't remember how I came across this phrase, but it fascinates me... an older version of what we'd call "Indian summer."  Especially in England and Europe where the days of the year were marked by saints' days and sundry feasts, this makes particular sense.  It puts a new spin on the word lukewarm, as well. 

It makes for an interesting metaphor - a little pocket of summer come to rest inside another season.  For the last several days we've had a glorious St. Luke's summer: the leaves are golden, red, orange and purple, beautiful autumn, and yet temperatures climbed into the 80s.  It was summer.  I tend to enjoy these bizarre weather-fronts: the odd January days that reach the 60s or 70s and melt a month's worth of snow; the chilly, blustery fronts in July when we suddenly wonder where the oven of summer has gone.  They're rogue summers and winters - visiting out of season but welcome guests nonetheless.  I don't think it's as significant as climate change, but weather-change and weather-mood. 

There is another version of Saint Luke's summer which is Saint Martin's summer, basically nice, warm weather around the 11th of November, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 18: Knackered

Today's word is...

"Knackered" is a British expression (an adjective) meaning tired and exhausted. 

This is how one is when one spends the day preparing for a long-distance trip for the sort-of-annual "conference" for the Daedalus Notes moderators.  So much to do, in fact, that one blogger forgot to blog today.  I love British expressions like these, not just because I'm an unabashed Anglophile, but because they sound right... just like those British nonsense words codswallop and tommyrot, chuffed (meaning very excited), whinge (to whine - was it any coincidence that Harry Potter's muggle relatives the Dursley's lived in Little Whingeing?), swot (to "cram" for a test) and twee (meaning quaint).  In this case, knackered is the best way to describe my current physical state: wiped out, shutting down, ready for BED!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 14: Tommyrot

Today's word is...

Tommyrot (noun) is a British term for nonsense - tommy meaning "fool".  Other words with similar meanings are codswallop, balderdash, poppycock and blatherskite.  All with a distinctly Victorian, Dickensian, nonsensical music to them.  I fell in love with the word in the third episode of Doctor Who Series 1, when the Doctor is explaining the existence of ghosts which haunt a funeral home and Charles Dickens himself snorts the word.   

I love these words that invent themselves, make little sense, but having so much meaning nonetheless. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 13: Shilly-shally

Am I counting the days correctly?  Day 13?  Really?

Today's most-excellent word is...

Shilly-shally (a verb) means to show hesitation or indecision; to dwadle or to waste time.

I chose this word because it suits my mood.  I spent too much time in bed this morning.  It took me forever to get organized, and all I wanted to do was sit at my desk and daydream about my stories.  (The girl who won't grow up.)  I am often oppressed by the feeling that I am lingering too long smelling the roses, and that I "don't get things done."  But, then again, how else can a writer glean and perfect his/her material without a little creative mental doodling, or musing, or gathering whimsies.

Shilly-shally must be related somehow to dilly-dally, which I heard often growing up.  I dallied often as a child - not that my attention span is bad, but that my eyes are easily to drawn to whatever is curious - a hazard when I'm driving.  Sure, I may not accomplish everything on the list, but, boy, was the day interesting.  Happy shilly-shallying!


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