This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Thing Not To Be Today: ghastly.

Ghastly has become sadly unfashionable as a word. Is there anyone, even the oldest old lady, who still proclaims more or less everything to be ghastly, from the propensity of actors in BBC dramas to mumble, to the lack of parking in the Old Town?

Is there still anyone who, when asked tenderly how they are feeling, feebly mutters ghastly! as they nurse their hangover, cold, or stubbed toe?

Is there any way we can use ghastly without sounding at least hundred-and-six years old? 

Well, we can still use it to mean pale-faced (I've always associated ghastly in this sense with ghostly, and that similarity is not entirely a coincidence). 

Best of all, I think, is to go back a couple of hundred years and use ghastly to mean in a horrible or hideous manner.

So that's got the Eurovision Song Contest sorted, hasn't it.

Thing Not To Be Today: ghastly. This word comes from the Old English gāstlīc, spiritual, which is related to gāst, which gives us ghost, and goes right back to the Sanskrit hēda, fury or anger.

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