This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Monday, 21 January 2013

Spot the frippet: furbelow.

Some words are a constant source of delight, and furbelow is one of those.

I've known this word since I was very small, when, hazily, I assumed it referred to luxurious underwear.

I found out exactly what it meant, ooh, it must have been about...

...er, eight thirty last night.

Furbelow almost always appears with its non-identical twin, frills. Frills and furbelows, people say (well, actually they don't: only retired colonels in old-fashioned novels ever say frills and furbelows, but you know what I mean).

And what is a furbelow?

One of these:


This is William Pitt the Younger – the painting is attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (c. 1804)
 
No, not a Prime Minister.
 
Here are some more:
 
 
See? Round the cap.


And some more:

Frill-necked lizard (dragon) by worms_x - Frill-necked lizard aka Frilled dragon typical to Australia

That's a frill-necked lizard. You get them in Australia. Lucky Australia!

By now it should be clear that furbelows are flounces or frills or some other bit of (usually fabric) bling.

It will also be clear that the phrase  frills and furbelows is saying the same thing twice.

But wouldn't the world be a greyer place if we banished furbelow just because we didn't need it?

Spot the Frippet: furbelow.  This word comes from the French dialect word farbella, and has attained its current form because people associated frills with underwear and fur with luxury: so it's really a very happy accident.



3 comments:

  1. Thanks,

    I JUST ENCOUNTERED THIS WORD IN THE AMERICANS BY Henry Adams. I FINALLY GET IT.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks,

    I JUST ENCOUNTERED THIS WORD IN THE AMERICANS BY Henry Adams. I FINALLY GET IT.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A very great pleasure, Tom, glad to be of service. Furbelow does have one of the most endearing derivations of all words, I think.

    ReplyDelete