This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Thing Probably Not To Do Today: be horrent.

The word horrent has given me great joy.

These lines of verse are from James Montgomery's poem Freedom.
It's the critical moment of the Battle of Sempach (1386), and all  will be lost unless a Hero arrives to save the day.

It did depend on one indeed;
       
Behold him,—Arnold Winkelried!

Anyway, the reason I was reading James Montgomery's poem is that a bit later on he's describing the massed ranks of the Austrian army and it says this:

Impregnable their front appears,
 

All horrent with projected spears,

Which is really rather splendid.

So, horrent. If your hair is horrent it's standing up on end, and the reason it's standing up on end will probably be horror rather than hair gel, though not necessarily because horrent can also either mean covered with bristles, or bristle-like, as in the Austrian spears.

Horrent can also mean expressive of horror. So you can make a horrent cry if, for instance, the top comes off the salt cellar as you're seasoning your soup.
 
If, say, a gorilla arrives for tea, you might even manage both the hair-standing-on-end and the cry. simultaneously
 
A servant in Victorian livery stands awkwardly at an open door, his mouth open and hair standing on end, as a gorilla wearing a white tie full dress tailcoat enters.
 
And I don't think anyone could blame you. Especially if the thing's wearing a waistcoat.
 
Thing Probably Not To Do Today: be horrent. This word comes from the Latin horrēns, from horrēre, which means to bristle or shudder.
 
 

4 comments:

  1. It's a wonderful little word isn't it?
    Even sounds more descriptive than 'horrible.'
    One of these days it will be added to my list.

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    1. Glad you liked it, Jingles. I'll look forward to its appearance in Words and Phrases from the Past.

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  2. Ah! This is where that couplet came from....super stuff!

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    1. And surely if Arnold Winkelreid can be a hero, anyone can.

      Must give some thought to Nominative Determinism...

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