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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Bumblebees and dumbledores

I doubt anyone would choose to be a writer if they didn't love words and, for me, there's a particular pleasure in finding ones that have gone out of fashion. The other day, I picked up a novel by Thomas Hardy that I hadn't read for many years and, as I read, a word jumped out at me.

If I say "dumbledore",  most people will think of Harry Potter, but clearly Hardy had never heard of the famous boy wizard. I looked up a dictionary of word origins and history, (if you google online etymological dictionary you should find the one I use) and found that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the word was used in West Country dialect to mean a bumblebee.

Other beautifully expressive words I've discovered over this past year are wamblecropt. It means overcome by indigestion, hopefully not too appropriate in the days of festive meals that stretch ahead of us!

Over the party season, I hope you won't be subjected to people who are ultracrepidarian. (Prone to expressing very forceful opinions on subjects about which they know absolutely nothing.)

After a particularly late night, will you indulge in a bit of snudging at the office? The practice of striding around looking enormously busy while doing nothing at all except perhaps checking your Smartphone. 

Lastly, when you need a rest from all the excitement, try gongoozling. This is the habit of sitting quietly staring at water. But don't forget to wrap up warm, especially if the weather's foxy. (Misleadingly sunny and bright but in fact freezing cold.)

Merry Christmas!

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