This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 10 November 2014

Spot the Frippet: autochthon.

What I love about words is...ooh, that would be a long list...but apart from the crispness and the bite and the sweetness, it's largely the looking-at-the-world-in-a-new-way thing.

Just about every word in a language tells you something about the way people think. In fact it's probably the best way to find out about other people's intimate lives short of taking up a career in burglary.

So, autochthon.

An autochthon is one of the earliest known inhabitants of any country - or, sometimes, someone descended from one of them. It can also be an animal or plant that's native to a particular region.

But that's not quite as easy as it sounds - I mean, I live in England and for quite a lot of time nothing lived here because it was largely covered in ice. In warm periods, like the one we're having at the moment, some plants and animals came along of their own accord.
So, are those sort-of-native oak trees and roe deer autochthonous?

I suppose the chalk this house sits on is autochthonous because it's made of crushed sea creatures, and presumably they didn't move about much once they were crushed: except that, as the house is now 400 ft above sea-level, perhaps not.

Suddenly even the earth under my feet is shifting uneasily. One word, and a whole life-time of assumptions are crumbling.

Is there an autochthon near you? Are you sure?

Good luck with finding one, anyway.

Spot the Frippet: an autochthon. This word comes from the Greek autos, self, and khthṓn, earth or soil.


  1. What a lovely word. Never heard it before. I will watch out for these...

    1. I've never heard it either, but, if I had, it should have been said orTOKthon.