This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Thursday 30 September 2021

The last ditch: a rant.

 The eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands is a horrible thing and The Word Den very much hopes that the damage it causes is limited and transitory.

The Word Den feels every sympathy for the poor residents of Todoque, in particular, which has lost many houses and the tower of its church, and The Word Den fervently wishes that a Telegraph journalist hadn't described the frantic digging of a channel to try to direct the flow of lava away from the town as a last-ditch attempt.

Word To Use Today: ditch. This word was dīc in Old English, and is related to the word dyke.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Nuts and Bolts: dox.

 To dox is to search for information about someone on the internet and then publish it, usually with malicious intent.

In the Good Old Days the word doxastic was to do with belief and the logic of belief, and a doxographer was someone who collected the opinions and theories of Greek philosophers.

These words are probably not completely safe to use, now.

Ah well. That's really not going to affect many of us, is it?

Word To Consider Today: dox. This is a shortened form of the word document, which comes from the Latin documentum, a lesson. The other dox words come from the Greek doxa, an opinion.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Thing Not To Have Today: embonpoint.

 You say this, if you should wish to, in the French way. There's a recording of how to do that HERE.

Em bon point as I've said, is French - Middle French, to be precise. It means in good condition, but it really describes someone who's plump.

Worse than that, it describes someone who's plump and smug with it.

Some say that it usually refers to the bosom, but as far as most authorities are concerned it's assumed to refer to the paunch or the general outline.

Thing Not To Have Today: embonpoint. It's fine to be plump, but not to be smug. 

And for an English-speaker to be smug in French is just terrible.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Sunday Rest: AUKUS. Word Not To Use Today.

 AUKUS is an acronym based on the words Australia, United Kingdom and United States. It's a new defence alliance covering some aspects of defence in those three countries (and covering other stuff, too, but if I told you about that then I'm afraid I'd have to kill you).

It's quite a harsh sound AUKUS, but the main reason not to use this word today is that the formation of the alliance has upset poor M Macron, the president of France, quite terribly. He thought they were all friends together, and then it turned out that the others had formed a gang and they'd left him out.

Ah well. 

Never mind, eh?

Sunday Rest: AUKUS. As I've said, AUKUS is quite a harsh sound (and also might be triggering to people who've been previously attacked by auks) but then USUKA was probably deemed to be too feminine, and UKAUS hides the USA's involvement, which would, of course, never do.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Saturday Rave: In September by Edward Dowden.

 Edward Dowden (1843-1913) was Irish, is best known for his commentaries on Shakespeare, and wrote some poetry.

That's all I know about him, but here's a poem of his which describes better than any other poem I know the joy, tempered always by the winter-warning of the ever-earlier darkness, of the September countryside.

Spring scarce had greener fields to show than these
Of mid September; through the still warm noon
The rivulets ripple forth a gladder tune
Than ever in the summer; from the trees
Dusk-green, and murmuring inward melodies,
No leaf drops yet; only our evenings swoon
In pallid skies more suddenly, and the moon
Finds motionless white mists out on the leas.

Autumn Landscape, September, by Lucas van Valkenborch

Word To Use Today: lea. This is a useful word in poetry, having just one syllable and a very common rhyme-sound. It means meadow or field, or anywhere sown with grass. The Old English form of the word was lēah.

Friday 24 September 2021

Word To Use Today: hipparch.

 A hipparch is, sadly, neither an arch designed by an achingly trendy architect, nor a system of government by horses.

As anyone who's read Gulliver's Travels will know (the whole book, I mean, not just the bit featuring the giants and the little people (I think we're probably allowed to say little people in this context)) rule by horses might be a rather benign and marvellous thing:

Gulliver Taking His Final Leave of the Land of the Houyhnhnms by Sawrey Gilpin

but, as I said, the horses weren't hipparchs, because a hipparch was a commander of cavalry in Ancient Greece:

There were never a lot of hipparchs - cavalry numbers were small because keeping horses was expensive, and also because without much in the way of a saddle and nothing in the way of stirrups, they couldn't actually do much fighting without falling off their horses.

Still, fighting horsemen could throw spears and draw bows, and get places quickly, all following their hipparch.

Word To Use Today (though I can't imagine why you should need to) hipparch. Hippos is the Greek for horse. -arch comes from the Greek arkhein, to rule.

Thursday 23 September 2021

A dreadful warning: a rant.

 And so Covid-19 goes on its way...

The subject of today's rant is a minor matter compared with the blasted bug's ravages, but if we humans can't control a semi-alive entity a two-millionth the size of a man - and perhaps especially because we can't control a semi-alive entity only a two-millionth the size of a man - we need to keep a tight rein on the things we can control, such as the meaning of what we're saying.

This is a headline from The Telegraph newspaper on 3rd September 2021:

Allowing mass infection of schoolchildren would be 'reckless' Gavin Williamson warned

So who did the warning? Did Gavin Williamson warn everyone else? Or did someone warn Gavin Williamson?

Gavin Williamson was Britain's Minister for Education (he's just been sacked) and, given that the press's instinct is always to attack politicians, I think we can guess the answer to that question.

But really there should be no room for doubt.

Word To Use Today: warn. This word was wearnian in Old English Given that we've had about a thousand years to practise* using the thing, you'd have thought we'd have got the hang of it by now.

*No, that's how we spell the word practise in Britain when it's a verb. Well, all right, most people don't - but, according to the dictionary and all pedants, they should!

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Nuts and Bolts: international cheating.

 I'm still thinking about the word defraud. The word is Anglo-French, which means it came into English after England was invaded by the Normans in 1066.

But we don't just defraud people in England; we also swindle, cheat, deceive, dupe and double-cross them.

Where have all those words come from?

Well, the word swindle arrived in the 1700s from the German Schwindler, from the Old High German swintan, to disappear. Cheat is short for escheat (now a term for a legal way of being able to take someone else's land). Escheat originated in the 1300s, and comes from the Old French eschete, from escheoir, to fall to the lot of, from the Latin cadere, to fall. Deceive comes from the Old French deceivre, from the Latin capere, to take. Dupe also comes from the Old French, from de huppe, which means [of] a hoopoe:

 from the Latin upupa, because of the bird's reputation for great stupidity. Double-cross....well, the double bit comes from the Old French, from the Latin duplus, which means two-fold (as does the word duplicity), and cross comes from Old Irish, from the Latin crux, which means cross.

As you'll have noticed, not one of these words originates in England.

Does this mean that the English are a fine honest bunch?

Or that they're the most cunning people of all?

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Thing To Attempt Today: cakeism.

 The campaign for Britain to leave the EU was full of bitterness, hatred, anguish, misleading statements, cheating - and food.

Even now there are dark warnings of a sausage war in Northern Ireland, and during the negotiations Britain was accused by the EU negotiators of both cherry-picking (wanting to commit only to the profitable bits of a deal) and cakeism.

I like the sound of cakeism. It comes from the idea that you can't have your cake and eat it (because of course if you've eaten it then you no longer have it).

Cakeism is wanting to have your cake even after you've eaten it. In the case of Brexit the accusation was that Britain wanted to be free of EU rules while maintaining the benefits of being in the EU.

What we actually ended up with was a great big slab of fudge..., hey, things could have been worse.

Thing To Attempt Today: cakeism. The word cake came into English from Old Norse in the 1400s.

This means that the things King Alfred burnt weren't cakes at all. (In the original story they're loaves of bread.)

Monday 20 September 2021

Spot the Frippet: something sulcate.

 Something sulcate is marked with long parallel grooves.

That might be a ploughed field:

SA Mathieson / Ploughed field near Kingstanding Farm / CC BY-SA 2.0

or a column:

Pompeii, Italy Photo by Jebulon

or a sea shell:

photo by H. Zell

or a tortoise shell:

African spurred tortoise, Las Vegas Zoo

Stems are sometimes sulcate, too (look at an old tomato plant stem, for instance).

Or,  you never know, perhaps you yourself are pretty groovy...

...well, it's a nicer way of putting it than wrinkly, isn't it.

Spot the Frippet: something sulcate. The Latin word sulcus means a furrow.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Sunday Rest: blastocyst. Word Not To Use Today.

 Heavens, this word is frightening. It sounds like something that grows inside you and then explodes, with fatal consequences.

illustration: Togo Picture Gallery, Database Center for Life Science

The fact that a blastocyst is actually a tiny sphere of cells that's one of the very earliest stages in the development of a baby might even make it worse.

Sunday Rest: blastocyst. The blasto- bit comes from the Greek blastos, which means bud. Cyst comes from the Greek word kustis, which means pouch or bladder.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Saturday Rave: A Short Song of Congratulation by Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson is not well known nowadays as a poet, but as a celebrity and a man of wit: eccentric, unclean, blunt, learned, fascinating and extraordinary.

But Johnson was a poet. Not only that, but he was born poor, into an unhappy home, was ill all his life, and was never financially secure: so his stuff surely must be worth a look.

Here's...but the clue is in the title.

A Short Song of Congratulations

LONG-EXPECTED one and twenty
Ling'ring year at last has flown,
Pomp and pleasure, pride and plenty
Great Sir John, are all your own.

Loosen'd from the minor's tether,
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Wild as wind, and light as feather
Bid the slaves of thrift farewell.

Call the Bettys, Kates, and Jenneys
Ev'ry name that laughs at care,
Lavish of your Grandsire's guineas,
Show the spirit of an heir.

All that prey on vice and folly
Joy to see their quarry fly,
Here the gamester light and jolly
There the lender grave and sly.

Wealth, Sir John, was made to wander,
Let it wander as it will;
See the jocky, see the pander,
Bid them come, and take their fill.

When the bonny blade carouses,
Pockets full, and spirits high,
What are acres? What are houses?
Only dirt, or wet or dry.

If the Guardian or the Mother
Tell the woes of willful waste,
Scorn their counsel and their pother,
You can hang or drown at last.


The centuries go on, but people don't change, do they?

Word To Use Today: blade. In this sense, a blade is a dashing and swaggering young man. It's the same word as the kind of blade as a knife has, and the Old English form of it was blæd. The word is connected to the Latin folium, which means leaf.


Friday 17 September 2021

Word To Use Today: conk.

 A conk is a nose, and has been since the early 1800s.

It's probably so-called after the sea shell called a conch:

conch shell. Photo by cheesy42

There's not that much resemblance, I know, but the shells are used as trumpets, which might be a clue to how the word got attached to the nose.

Conk meaning nose is not a word to be used in formal circumstances, and neither is conk meaning to hit someone (probably on the head, and quite possibly on the nose).

Conking out is a similarly informal expression meaning to stop working. This may be a happy thing: if someone conks out on the sofa then they've gone to sleep; but if an engine conks out then that's going to be annoying, especially if the engine in question is keeping a plane in the air (the term was used a lot in this sense in World War I). This meaning of the word conk seems to have originated among pioneer motor-cyclists a few years before WWI, and was probably an imitation of the sound of a stalling engine. 

When the engine starts to "conk conk conk" retard the spark a trifle, or give more throttle if an increase in speed is permissable. Motorcycle Illustrated 1911.

The hairstyle called the conk was worn by men with naturally frizzy hair in the mid twentieth century, and it relied on the chemical congolene as a straightening agent. Congolene was homemade, extremely corrosive, and made of lye (sodium hydroxide made from wood ash) mixed quite often with potatoes and eggs.

A final, again apparently random meaning of conk is that it's the fruiting body of a bracket fungus - that is, the visible bit of a fungus that sticks out of a tree trunk. I can't find any origin for this word - it's not in the OED - so it's probably recent.

It's a vastly satisfying word, anyway. I wonder what it's going to mean next?

Thursday 16 September 2021

Eternal Source of Light Divine: a rant.

 It's the Christmas Catalogue season again, and our letterboxes are slithering with stuff that you wouldn't want to give to your worst enemy - but that for your exceptionally annoying brother-in-law are absolutely ideal.

Owl Barn Gifts raises money for the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. Its catalogue is full of wonders: why by page three alone we have been offered a giant robin hand warmer ("cosy armchair accessory").

It was the item at the bottom of that page which really caught my imagination, though: an Eternal Fire Lantern.

Think of that. Eternal fire. A solution to Global Warming at last!

I read on eagerly.

This freestanding coal fire lantern will make any room feel welcoming and festive this winter season. Its bright LED powered flame will light up any corner of your home and its vintage brushed effect style will add a touch of class, too. Size 11 x 8.2 x 3.9"...


...Requires 3 x AAA batteries (not included).

Ah well!

Word To Use Today: eternal. This word comes from the Latin aeternus, from aevum, age.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Nuts and Bolts: de- words.

 I've been wondering for some time: why defraud? Why don't we simply fraud people?

Whatever the reason, we've certainly been defrauding people for a long time. The word comes from the Anglo-French defrauder, from the Latin defraudare, from - plus fraus, which means fraud.

That - means away, or out of, in Latin, and there are many English words when a de- at the beginning of a word still means more or less the same thing - words like defrost, defrock, dehydrate - but then there are many more words where the de- at the beginning of a word means something rather different. De- in the words decompose and delegitimise means to reverse; and then there are instances where de- can make a word more intense, as in the word devote; or there's the word detest, where the de- turns the rest of the word into something horrible.

The word defraud, which started me thinking about this, is one of the making-it-more-intense ones.

I still can't honestly say I understand exactly why we don't fraud people. But I shall happily devote myself to them, all the same.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Thing To Do Today, But Only In A Good Way: embowel something.

 Look, there's endearingly quirky, and then there's perverse.

To embowel something is to bury it deeply. It might be treasure in the ground, or it might be your house keys in your handbag.

On the other hand, embowel can mean exactly the same as disembowel.



Sometimes I don't know about what the makers of the English language were thinking.

Thing To Do Today, But Only In A Good Way: embowel. The em- bit comes from Latin (it's basically the same as in- but used in this form before b, m, and p). The word bowel comes from the Old French bouel, from the Latin botellus, a little sausage, from botulus, sausage.

Yes, it's where the word botulism comes from. 

Worrying, isn't it?

Monday 13 September 2021

Spot the Frippet: arabesque.

 Arabesques are important in Islamic art, but they aren't confined to it. They didn't originate in Islamic culture, either:

Roman arabesque (on lower panel) c 27 AD. Photo by Andy Hay

drawing by Etienne de Lavallee-Poussin c1785

An arabesque is an interweaving pattern made of leaves and stems:

photo by Jan Smith from Brisbane, Australia - Umayyad Mosque, Damascus: Detail.

In Islam, which tends to prefer its Art not to include images of people or animals, the arabesque is sometimes used as a focus for contemplation. The underlining geometry of the design echoes the structure of creation (a square might suggest earth, air, fire and water, for instance) and the tangling plants the idea of creation itself.

In the West I'm afraid we just tend to think that's nice wallpaper.

pattern by William Morris

Ah well!

Spot the Frippet: arabesque. This word comes from the Italian arabesco, which means in the Arab style.

You get arabesques in ballet, too:

Olga Preobrajenska. Photo from ​English Wikipedia user Mrlopez2681, CC BY-SA 3.0,

so you could always make your own arabesque in front of a mirror.

But do watch how you go.

Sunday 12 September 2021

Sunday Rest: jab. Word Not To Use Today.

 I don't mind the word jab, myself, not even when it's used to mean a medical injection.

However, someone in my family objects to it because it sounds violent; and another family member objects to it because it reminds her of the word jam, with its association with red things and mess, and therefore with wounds.

It's quite possible that I just have a really weird family, but I present this information to all friends in The Word Den so we can be sensitive if we feel like it.

Sunday Rest: jab. This is a surprisingly new word to the English of England, first appearing in the 1800s. It is a Scottish form of the word job, in this sense a word used since the 1500s to describe the pecking of birds, and later for any similar action, such as a boxer's punch.

Saturday 11 September 2021

Saturday Rave: A Message From Allah.

 From the Quran 7: 1561:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ 

My mercy embraces all things

Just something to bear in mind, there, folks.

Thing To Show Today: mercy. This word comes from Old French, from the Latin word mercēs, which means wages or recompense or price, from merx, which means goods.

While we're here, another quotation. 

Quran 16:23: 

Indeed, He does not like the proud.

You know, it all sounds like a recipe for peace and happiness to me. 

Friday 10 September 2021

Word To Use Today: boulder.

A boulder is a stone rounded by erosion and moved from its original position.

Something like this:

This is an glacial erratic boulder (which doesn't imply that it's unreliable, but that it's been moved by a glacier). Photo by Donald Perkins of a memorial to the Geologist Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsey at Eglwys Sadwrn Sant, Wales

It has to be more than 256 mm across or else it's a cobble.

The real reason for featuring this word on The Word Den, however, is its derivation.

So, without further ado:

Word To Use Today: boulder. This word comes from the Old Swedish bulder, which means rumbling. 

Cool, huh?

Thursday 9 September 2021

Going viral: a rant.

 Given that no one nowadays believes anything that appears in the press, I'm not even sure that newspaper grammar matters any more.

Still, if one is spraying accusations about then it's always best to avoid wetting one's own trousers, so this may serve as a dreadful warning.

This is from the Telegraph online, 28/08/21:

On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the report on the origins of Covid-19 "is not scientifically credible" and wrongly claims China is hindering a global investigation of the pandemic.

Who is wrongly claiming? The report or the Chinese Embassy in Washington?

Well, we know the answer to that, really. But, honestly, surely a professional journalist should be expected to be able to insult people effectively.

I mean, what else do they do?

Word To Use Today: claim. The Old French claimer means to claim or appeal, and the Latin clāmāre means to shout.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Nuts and Bolts: kaomoji.

 Kaomoji is a much-used form of emoticon in Japan. The Japanese belief that the eyes are the mirrors of the soul means that the eyes are the most important feature in kaomoji (in the West in tends to be the mouth). 

Kaomoji are also read upright, not sideways, as in Western emojis: 


(Japanese writing has vertical space to allow for this.)

There are a lot of kaomoji. Officially there are about ten thousand, but there are certainly many more. This is partly because there are a lot more shapes to play with in Japanese script. You can even write stories in them.

Here are a few kaomoji to give you the idea.

Joy   (ᵔᵔ)

Love (°°)  

Embarassment (_;) 

Sympathy (_<) ` )

Anger (`´)ノ゙

Sorrow (•́︿•̀)

Running ε=ε=ε=ε=┌(;)┘  

Cat (=^・ェ・^=)  

Spider //\(ఠఠఠఠ)/\\

...and if you thought spider was a bit niche, then how about:

Alive among zombies (x(x_(x_x(O_o)x_x)_x)x)


Drowning (°□° )


There we are. A whole language, new-born - and growing fast!

Nuts and Bolts: The word kaomoji comes from two words in kanji (which is Japanese written in Chinese characters): kao,  meaning face, and moji 文字meaning character.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Thing Not To Do Today: catcall.

 Long long ago, when I was a teenager, men would bib their horns or catcall me all the time. I didn't mind. I found it flattering, and in fact it gave me confidence.

The last time I remember being catcalled was when out with my two teenage daughters...but then possibly I wasn't the main object of the catcall.

Still, chivalry is not entirely dead. Nowadays cars stop to let me cross the road. 

I am carefully not thinking about why they do this.

Anyway, nowadays catcalling is no longer a charming or cheeky tribute to beauty, but an example of male-on-female aggression. Or so I'm told.

But why cat?

Thing Not To Do Today: catcall. The first kind of catcall that was actually called a catcall happened in the 1650 or thereabouts. It was made by a kind of squeaker that was used to express dissatisfaction in playhouses (several websites recount this 'fact', but personally I'm doubtful. I mean, weren't all the theatres shut in the 1650s because of Oliver Cromwell etc?).

Anyway, presumably the things made a noise like an affronted cat. 

Cats have been cats for ages. The Old English form was catte and the Latin cattus.

Monday 6 September 2021

Spot The Frippet: viscose.

(In the USA viscose is called rayon if it's made into a fabric.)

Viscose is made from wood pulp (and also from soy, hemlock, bamboo, and sugar cane). It's therefore a natural fibre, and biodegradable (silverfish will eat it if they're hungry). 

On the other hand, to get from wood to fabric you have to go through a lot of processes, and use a lot of water and chemicals (caustic soda, ammonia, acetone, sulphuric acid), so it's not necessarily as completely environmentally friendly as the manufacturers would like us to think.

photo by Johan

Having said that, there's a new way of making viscose called the Lyocell process, which is environmentally better.

Viscose is a process, as well as a product, and viscose-made products include cellophane, synthetic sponges, sausage skins, and tea bags:

Not many of us get through a day without it, do we?

Spot The Frippet: viscose. The name of the substance comes from part of the process of making the stuff. It's complicated: wood chips are chemically dissolved to a pulp, then more chemicals dissolve the pulp to a fluid which is rolled into sheets, dried, shredded, treated, dissolved again to make it into a very thick (that is, viscose) fluid, which is then filtered, degassed, and then forced through small holes (in a thing called spinneret) to make threads.


The word viscose comes from the Latin viscōsus, which means full of bird-lime or sticky, from viscum, which is birdlime or mistletoe.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Sunday Rest: egret.

 Egrets (you say that EEgretts) are truly beautiful birds:

This Little Egret is in Australia. Photo by GDW.45

but a little while ago, spray-painted on a power-box beside the canal towpath, I saw a piece of graffiti which said:

 Have egrets

Not regrets

Two weeks later, this is still bugging me. For one thing, I can't imagine what the writer was trying to say; and, for another, egret and regret don't scan.

Still, I don't suppose the purpose of graffiti is to make its viewers feel happier, calmer, or wiser, is it.

Sunday Rest: egret. (There's nothing wrong with this word, really, as long as you aren't trying to make it scan with regret.) The word egret comes from the Old French aigrette, from the Provençal aigron, which means heron. Before that it was a German kind of a word.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Saturday Rave: the courtship song of the eider duck.

 I know that this is entirely the wrong season for duck-courtship (in the Northern hemisphere, anyway) but I suddenly remembered hearing these courting eider a few springs ago and I realised it was just what the world needs to cheer it up:

Do feel free to imitate the song, even if you happen not to be a duck.

Any courtship song, after all, has to be worth a try.

Word To Use Today: eider. This word comes from the Old Norse æthr. A similar word seems to have meant duck more or less for ever.

Friday 3 September 2021

Word To Use Today: hippocampus.

 A hippocampus is a sea horse:

this one can be seen in the Roman museum at Bath, England, near the warm spring dedicated to the goddess Sul

this one's part of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, finished in the 1760s. Photo by Alexander Augst

Usually today we think of sea horses as rather different things:

photo: By © Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0, This is a short-snouted sea horse

but these sea horses are indeed still hippocampi because hippocampus the name of the sub-family of fish to which they belong.

We may not think about hippocampi very much, but hippocampi are always in our minds - well, in our brains, anyway. The hippocampi are two vaguely sea horse-shaped parts of the brain, one in each hemisphere of the brain:

 illustration by Henry Vandyke Carter

They help with long and short-term memory, and with spatial memory, too.

I've long loved the sea-monster kind of hippocampi, especially since I've discovered that sea horses are too small for a human to ride, but what got me thinking about them recently was coming across the compound noun horse marine.

A horse marine is a mounted soldier who travels in a ship.

This is quite as odd as any of the other kinds of sea horse; but not nearly as romantic.

Word To Use Today: hippocampus. This word is Greek. Hippos means horse, and kampos means sea monster.

Thursday 2 September 2021

A Locutionary Act: a rant.

 According to my 30th Anniversary Edition Collins English Dictionary,  (of which I am generally very fond) a locutionary act is the act of uttering a sentence considered only as such.

And if that means anything at all to you then you're a lot cleverer than I am.

Word To Consider Today: locutionary. This word comes from the Latin locūtiō, an utterance.

I've done some research, and the basic idea here seems to be that a locutionary act is to do with the actual meaning of the words you're saying. It's not an implied meaning (if you say I'm mad about Harry then you're probably not claiming to be mentally ill) and it's not anything that happens as a by-product of the words (for example, if someone shouts watch out! then you've been told to move, even though no one has uttered the word move).

The idea of analysing utterances in this way was dreamt up by JL Austin (though probably not when he was actually asleep).

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Nuts and Bolts: -lectic.

 I came across the word oligolectic and wondered what it meant.

Oligo means group, I know, as in oligarchy (rule by a group of people) but what's -lecticThe word oligolectic describes a species of bees that harvests pollen from only one kind of flower. That's not all that helpful in figuring out what the -lectic ending means, but it turns out that the -lectic part of the word comes from the Greek eklegein, which means to select, from legein, to gather. 

It's the same word as gives us eclectic, meaning to gather from many sources.

So, is that the answer to the -lectic thing, then?


There are a few other -lectic words - dialectic, apoplectic, homilecticDialectic comes from, yes, the Greek legein; but in that case the word means to talk; apoplectic comes from the Greek word apoplēssein, to cripple by a stroke, from plēssein, to strike; homilectic is to do with the art of preaching, and comes from the Greek word homilos, which means crowd.

So what does -lectic mean?

It means that various people over the centuries have thought that       -lectic was quite a cool sort of ending to bung on a word.

Ah well.

Word To Use Today: one with -lectic on the end, perhaps.