Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Myles Who?

Myles Who?

Last week’s post included a compound word coined by the Disney screenwriter of Bambi. This week we’ll look back a bit further & consider some of the words first written down by Myles Coverdale, who, in 1535, published the first-ever English translation of the Bible (predating the King James version by seventy-six years).

Even though most etymologists believe many of the compound words Coverdale was the first to write down were in common usage, the commoners using them weren’t bothering to write them down, so the following words are known as Coverdale words:


fleshpot – meaning luxuries regarded with envy, though the literal meaning was pots in which flesh was boiled. One could argue for either meaning in the Exodus verse in which the word appears.


noonday – a simple compound of noon and day, from Job

lovingkindness – I’ve always associated this word with my mother, known in the family as Muz. She strived to live this word & most who knew her would agree that she succeeded. Lovingkindness appears in Psalms.

bloodthirsty – not a word one would expect in Psalms, but predictability is not the Old Testament’s strongest suit.

uproar – meaning to move, stir or shake, or a revolt or commotion (appearing in Kings, Matthew & Acts), from the German aufruhr, meaning tumult or riot, & definitely not related to the word roar, which came to English through Old English & Dutch from Sanskrit ragati, meaning barks.

sackbut – from the book of Daniel, sackbut came from the French saquebute, a bass trumpet with a trombone-like slide. Interestingly, the instrument bore a striking resemblance to the saqueboute, a hooked lance-like weapon of northern France, used in battle to pull riders from their horses. Apparently Coverdale incorrectly used the term in Daniel to refer to Aramaic instruments known as sabbekha, a small triangular harp. I’m often in the minority when it comes to religious/spiritual issues, but it seems to me that a joyful noise is a joyful noise, no matter the nature of one’s sackbut. Of course, the question remains whether it was the French or the Aramaic who first coined the phrase, Does this dress make my sackbut look big?

Any responses about Myles Coverdale or these words attributed to him? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.


My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, English Bible History & Wordnik

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Addlepated to Twitterpated


From Addlepated to Twitterpated

I’ve always had a fondness for the word pate, even before mine was exposed to the elements. My attraction to the word pate includes the words twitterpated and addlepated, so I’m celebrating mid-April with a consideration of these two words and their synonyms.

Addlepated came to English in the 1850s along with its cousin addlebrained. Though addle initially meant liquid filth or urine, in time it came to also mean putrid, empty, vain or idle. By 1706, addle added to its quiver of meanings confused, muddled or unsound. It’s this 1706 bunch of meanings that brought about addlepated and addlebrained.

A synonym of addlepated is puddingheaded, which showed up in English in 1851, referring to an amiable, yet stupid person. Pudding, the first bit of this compound word, came to English either through West Germanic languages meaning to swell (related to pudgy), or through Latin & French, referring to sausage (related to purse).

The 1850s also gave birth to muddleheaded. The word muddle came to English in the 1590s, meaning literally to bathe in mud, & figuratively, to destroy clarity. It appears to have come from the Dutch word moddelen, which means to make water muddy.

Twitterpated, on the other hand, seems to have more to do with the heart than with the head. Twitterpated first appeared in the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi. It appears that screenplay writer Larry Morey coined the word, adding pate to twitter, which means in tremulous excitement or romantically infatuated He may have been inspired by the word flutterpated, born in 1894 & of the same meaning.

A wonderful two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is agog, which made its way from French to English as early as the 1400s, meaning heated with the notion of some enjoyment or longing.

A second two-syllable synonym is dotty, which came to English in the 1400s in the form of dottypolle (polle meaning head – the same root from which tadpole comes). It appears to be based on the word dote, and means silly with desire.

Our final two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is smitten, which meant struck hard or afflicted with disaster when it came to English in the 1200s, but a mere four centuries later picked up the meaning inspired with love. I suppose some folks might claim the old and new meanings are synonymous, though I am fortunate to have had more positive smitten experiences.

Dear readers, any thoughts on all this? Any favorite terms from the collection above? Please leave a note in the comments section.


My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, Full TV Movies & Wordnik

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Euphemistic Enhancement


Euphemistic Enhancement

As noted in last week’s post, we employ euphemisms for myriad reasons, usually to make the topic of conversation less offensive to delicate ears. Though we tend to think of euphemisms as tools of the squeamish Victorians, modern. euphemisms abound.

During the Vietnam War, reporters discussed loss of life in terms of soldiers or men. Today, the less-human term troop is in usage.

What my grandmother called rubbish, my generation called trash or garbage. Today it has become waste. We hauled that historic rubbish & trash off to the dump. Today’s waste ends up in the landfill (& in some communities, the transfer station). How very sanitary.

Yesterday’s tombstone is today’s grave marker.

Yesterday’s life jacket has become a personal flotation device.

Yesterday’s looting & stealing is now known as self-provisioning.

But euphemisms started long before the modern day, or even the Victorian era. The word cemetery (which came to English from Greek in the late 1300s) is actually a euphemism for the more honest word graveyard. Cemetery means sleeping place – a Greek term first applied to graveyards sometime in the first century.

Euphemisms can also be tools for the advancement of capitalism.

Sales of what was once called Patagonian toothfish skyrocketed when it became Chilean sea bass. The same thing happened when muttonfish was re-named snapper and when the dolphin fish took on the moniker mahi mahi. And imagine the complete surprise of fish salespeople all over the world when the newly named orange roughy sold like crazy. Whyever were sales so low with its old name, slime head?

Good readers, go forth and euphemize (and if you have anything to say about all this, please leave a comment or two).

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, English Word Information, Ralph Keyes’ Euphemania, & Wordnik

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Drinking Euphemisms


Drinking Euphemisms

Years ago I worked with a student teacher who – upon having to use the restroom – would say, “Excuse me. I have to euphemize.” Though this post doesn’t look at all the gloriously creative euphemisms for using the restroom (this sentence contains one of the mildest ones available), it goes out to Peter Sweeny.

The word euphemism first arrived in English in 1650. The original Greek form meant to speak with fair words, or good speech. It comes from the Greeks’ understanding that speaking some words brought poor fortune. For instance, it wasn’t considered wise to mention the Furies (known for their heartless punishments of unavenged crimes) by name. Instead, they might be referred to as the Gracious Ones. In modern tales, we see this same phenomenon in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, in which the stunningly evil antagonist is spoken of as he who must not be named.

Ah, the euphemism: humanity’s tendency to

- say what we don’t mean in hopes of avoiding the possibility that we might be understood,
- communicate to an intended audience while keeping others “on the outs”, or
- avoid being offensive while saying something, well, offensive.

Some fine euphemisms for drinking include:
-to lift an elbow
-to have a snort
-to fall victim to barley fever
-to take one’s medicine
-to enjoy a wee drop
-to feed one’s kitty
-to get a snootful
-to enjoy a nip
-to eat the pudding bag

If a drinker over-imbibes & we intend to criticize, we might say s/he is:
-piffled
-schnozzled
-pie-eyed
-smashed
-tanked
-slopped
-frazzled
-het-up
-blotto
-noggy
-stewed to the gills
-under the table

Or when we’d like to be less critical, we might say s/he:
-is a little squiffy
-is impaired
-is in a difficulty
-is in a rosy glow
-is in a muddle
-is making a night of it
-is making a trip to Baltimore
-is a bit ruddy-faced
-is sotally tober

And the morning after a bit of liquid debauchery, we might say s/he:
-has flu-like symptoms
-is under the weather
-is suffering the wrath of grapes
-has a Dutch headache
-has a hair-ache
-has the brown bottle flu
-has an inexplicable headache
-has hamster mouth
-is wearing loud shoes

Do any of you have a favorite drinking euphemism to add to the pot? Please do so in the comments section.


My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, Drunktionary, Wordnik, & Ralph Keyes’ Euphemania