Crying like a cowboy

July 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

‘So you’re a writer? What’s your favourite book?’

I loathe this question. I also dislike being asked to explain my reluctance to embrace the music of The Pixies, whether I’ll regret all my tattoos when I’m older, and the dreaded ‘What’s your novel about?’

I’m just going to start answering ‘Cheese’, and walk away.

But I think I’ve found the answer to the first question. If I had to choose one book to take with me to a deserted island (or a ski lodge in the middle of an avalanche, which is, let’s face it, much more my style) I know which one I’d choose.

I would take my 1400 page, $120 dictionary of etymology.

Etymology is the history of words, and without a doubt, one of the linguistic areas I love the most. I’m the word nerd my friends call during dinner party debates to ask Is it true that ‘nice’ used to mean ‘lewd?’ (yes, before 1300) or Does the word ‘caesarean’ come from Julius Caesar? (contrary to popular belief, no). How a language has changed over the centuries relies on a rich stew of history and culture, and I find the process fascinating.

Recently I found a word that made me reach for a pen immediately.

Bubulcitate: to cry like a cowboy (17th century).

Now, if that doesn’t pique your interest, there’s really no point in reading any further: this blog ain’t for the likes of you. I went looking, and found several obsolete words that give us a tantalising glimpse into another time and culture.

Blepharon: he who has great eyebrows

Chantepleur – a person who weeps and sings at the same time

Sproag – to run among the haystacks after the girls at night

Tyromancy – divination by the coagulation of cheese

Peristeronic – suggestive of pigeons

Iatrogenic – symptoms caused unintentionally by a doctor

Rapin – an unruly art student

Panurgic – ready for anything

Microphily – the friendship between two people not equal in intelligence

Redeless – not knowing what to do in an emergency

Pavonize – to act like a peacock

Elucubration – writing by candlelight

Unbepissed – not having been urinated on

The latter raises so many questions…

But without a doubt, the one that clearly pertains to me, and possibly anyone who’s read this far, is Vocabularian: one who pays too much attention to words.

And quite proud of it.

 The following sites, books and people are well worth taking a look at:

‘Reading the OED’ by Ammon Shea

‘The Word Museum’ by Jeffrey Kacirk

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