Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Etymology:

The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

I was sorting through a pile of my old papers this morning and, as is the way with such activities, I found something absorbing to read. Several years ago I had made some notes about a fascinating man with the intention of mentioning him here. I don’t think I ever did, so I shall put that right now. 

Mark Forsythe is an etymologist. He has contributed to many etymological publications, not least the introduction to the 12th edition of the Collins English Dictionary in which he states, “There are few pastimes in life as pleasurable and profitable as reading the dictionary…” How can anyone disagree with him? His most recent book is called The Eloquence of Elegance and although I haven't yet read it, it is on my 'wish list'. I am at the moment enjoying his The Horologicon - A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language.

Forsythe blogs at Inky Fool and I thought I'd share with you a few of the more obscure words that he has talked about there. He says that he loves gongoozling. Indeed, who doesn’t love having the occasional gongoozle? You can read the derivation of the word on his post called Gongoozler and, just in case you didn’t know, it means to gaze idly especially at people working on a canal.

Another of his posts talks about wamblecropt, a word which he professes to find "intolerably beautiful" to listen to. Sadly the word is no longer in regular use. It means being overcome with indigestion. Maybe we should reintroduce it this very minute.

Yet another post has been devoted to the phrontistery, a place specifically built for people to go and think. I could go on but Forsythe describes these words and their meanings so much more eloquently than I ever could so I recommend you pop over to Inky Fool and have a read for yourself.

And now I shall sit in my phrontistery and gongoozle for a while. (No, there is no canal visible from my phronistery window but I can't get it right all the time, now can I!)

18 comments:

  1. Oh I so love playing with words. One of my daughters and I can spend hours working out if a word has Greek or Latin origins!!

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    1. My one big regret from school is that I didn't opt for Latin. I suspect it's too late to try to learn it now.

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    2. We both did Latin, and she speaks Greek. So we think we know everything!! We don't, of course, but still have such fun word-playing.

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  2. Gongoozling is a word I'm very familiar with because I used to work for British Waterways. And I definitely want a phrontistery!

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    1. Do you mean to say that they actually use that word on the canals?

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    2. Oh yes. It's in common usage among canal staff and boat users.

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    3. Ha Ha.I used the wood GONGOOZLER in conversation only this morning.Someone said that they liked to wander along canals looking at things.I said"oh you are a gongoozler then" he said "pardon that cannot be a word"So I said what it meant and googled it to prove it!!!!Thanks to Ros`s blog for knowing that.Petra.

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  3. Thank you, I will go and check him out right now. I love words, particularly English words and where they come from and how they change.

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  4. quite interesting. Lots to think about when it comes to words and languages. Maybe I shall find a canal to stroll along and let someone gongoozle me (hmm, that sounds suspicious)

    very amusing

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    1. I don't think it works that way round, Joanne. If you're gongoozling I suspect you're looking at nothing in particular but your comment made me laugh.

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  5. Hi Ros - I too love words ... I do think we should bring back 'wamblecropt' .. but definitely change the meaning to something more poetic and for some reason romantic .. rather like wamblecropt .. but not as a digestive challenge!

    Fun and thanks for sending us over to check out Forsythe and his books and blog postings .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I suspect it would be a bit difficult to change the meaning... on the other hand, 'wicked' now means good and 'cool' doesn't mean you need to go and grab an extra sweater so it could be possible!

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  6. Hello.I like words too and your blogs-having recently read some.I have just finished reading
    The Horologicon but much prefer The Etymologicon.One word I specially like is flanerie.
    I wander aimlessly looking at whatever comes my way(even canals sometimes) Petra.

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    1. Thank you, Petra. I'm loving Forsythe's sense of humour in The Horologicon, and flanerie is another fascinating but little used word. I have actually taken part in a flanerie session at a therapeutic writing day. As you say, it's wandering aimlessly but with a bit of an agenda I suspect.

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    2. I was only talking about being a gongoozler the other day on my blog Ros! I adore that word...

      http://www.thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/days-of-being-gongoozler.html

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    3. Sorry, Bridget, I missed that. I shall pop over and have a read :-) Funny how people sometimes have similar thoughts at similar times. Must be something in the ether.

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  7. Ooh I love looking up the origins of words, especially now I live in Holland and I know so many of our English words are derived from old Dutch. I have an etymological dictionary but it's not a very good one. I shall now go over to Inky Fool and sign up as a follower. Mr Forsythe sounds like my kind of guy!

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