Missive from Michelle: Whiffling on about words

FOR those who love words and collecting quirky information, the book, The Wonder of Whiffling and other extraordinary words in the Engling Language by Adam Jacot de Boined, is a treat.

The author explored the beauties, oddities and hilarity of the English language from rural Engling counties and remote ex-colonies, from the jargon-loving armed forces to the schoolyard.

Did you know, according to legal statute, an idiot is an individual with an IQ of less than 20, an imbecile between 21 and 40 and a moron btween 50 and 70’.

As you cast about for insults it may be worth remembering these categories.

But then the English language has never been short of slurs for the stupid.

Historically you could have been á clumperton, a dull-pickle or a fopdoodle, a jobbernowl or a goostrumnoodle.

What is striking about these weird words De Boined has discovered, is their descriptive sound. Cloop is drawing a cork from a battle, jarg is the cracking of a door or gate and whiffle is a soft sound as of gently moving air or water.

According to the book, a garden mole was known in Middle English as a mowdiwarp. A fuz-pig is a hedgehog and a bobbly-jock is a turkey.

Here also seem to be words for very specific activities. A psychrolutist is one who bathes in the open air daily throughout the winter, a cuddle puddle is a heap of exhausted ravens and a buff-ball is a party where everyone dances naked (who knew?).

A nice way to refer to a homeless person is to say he is ‘the key of the street’.

Beggars velvet is downy particles which accumulate under furniture from the negligence of housemaids and to flisk is to remove cobwebs.

Some useful words for politicians are; a tyrekicker who is a politician who discusses and debates but takes no action, a snollygoster is a politician with no platform, principles or party preference and quockwodger is a pseudo-politician acting with the instructions of an influential third party.

The book, published by the Penguin Group, is filled with interesting sounding words with often hilarious meanings.

Anyone for scrabble or are you a goostrumnoodle?


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