This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sunday Rest: Word Not To Use Today: foetid.

Foetid (fetid is actually the more usual spelling, but I think the o makes it look even knobblier) is a word with a built-in scowl.

No, really: try it and see. Saying foetid makes you look as if you'd smelled some really REALLY revolting.

Like...but, hey, I don't want to put you off your biscuit.

Still, stinking is as stinking does. The plant foetid bugbane lowers fever, kills pain, and is a sedative, a tonic, anti-viral and anti-biotic. It treats rheumatism, coughs, colds, headaches, gum disease and, oddly, measles.

And smells of decaying fish.

Ah, but the toadstool Amanita foetidissima may smell disgusting, but at least it's edible.
If you're desperate...

As for the buffalo gourd, Cucurbita foetidissima, not only can you eat it (as long as it's young enough not to have developed too much taste) but you can make it, bizarrely, into rattles.

I don't know, though: I think I'll stick with aspirin, mushrooms, and not-rattling, though, all the same.

Word Not To Use Today: foetid. This word is from the Latin word fētēre, to stink, and is related, rather satisfyingly, to the word fūmus, smoke.


  1. And, of course, it's properly spelt "fœtid", which makes it even knobblier, doesn't it?

    In HTML, like this comment, you can make the o-and-e-together using the special code œ, or Unicode U+0339. There are other ways, and finding them will introduce you to the wonderful world of character encodings, which constitute a wonderful way to make computer programmers tear their hair in frustration.

    Case doesn't matter in most HTML codes, but they make a delightful exception in a few of the character escapes. Œ makes a capital Œ, Unicode U+0338. You need that to spell Œrlikon, which is a type of gun, so perhaps you won't need it often.


  2. Dear ethel! Yes, of course I should have seized this opportunity to give her an outing. (Have you seen the MISSING ETHEL post of a couple of days ago?)
    I'm afraid that dragging WORD symbols is an technical as I get at the moment, but I'll take note of the existence of HTML coding in case I ever decide to take a plunge towards computer competence.

  3. Dragging up All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Character Map is a drag. On a standard Windows system, many of them can be got by holding ALT and typing a number on the number pad; Ælice is ALT-146, for instance, and her lowercase sister is ALT-145. Sadly enough, Ethel isn't available that way.


  4. Thanks, Ric.
    That's useful for discussing Ælfric the Grammarian, too!