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, February 26, 2015



Sometimes our words come from mispronunciations.

An apprentice or lackey for a more talented individual can be referred to as a student, at one time pejoratively mispronounced stugent. Though it’s not nailed down, some linguists assert  that in 1913 this purposeful mispronunciation spawned the word stooge.

The Spanish word juzgar means to judge. The court or tribunal where a judge might be employed is a juzgao. Some time around 1911 we Americans mispronounced juzgao & misunderstood its meaning, and voila, hoosegow was born,

In Turkish, the letter g can represent a sound somewhat close to an English w. The Turkish word yog, meaning to condense, is the root of the Turkish word yogurt (pronounced in Turkish yowurt). The spelling led to the English mispronunciation of yogurt, which entered the language in the 1620s.

The word for golden in Middle Dutch was gulden. In the late 1400s, English speakers mispronounced gulden, morphing it into guilder.

The word bulge, meaning a rounded projection or protuberance, appears to have been dialectically mispronounced about 1872 as bug, giving us the term bug-eyed. So even though some insects may be bug-eyed, the bug in bug-eyed doesn’t mean bug.

The word haphazard, meaning unplanned, random or ineffectual, appears to be the source of the crass & initially purposefully mispronounced word half-assed, which came to English in 1913.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster,  Etymonline, & the OED.


  1. I guess now that you're retired, you're allowed to say that students are really "stooges". :-) That's a new one for me.

    I've always loved the word hoosegow, and I was so jazzed when I found out it really did mean jail.

    The haphazard/half-assed thing makes perfect sense. So does bug-eyed.

    Enlightening as usual, Mr. Monger!

  2. Greetings Anne, & thanks for coming by. I'm glad to have been of some value entertainment-wise.

  3. This reminds me of stories I hear about families that use endearingly mispronounced words because the youngest sibling had such a cute way of speaking. Or children mishearing words like, undertoad instead of undertow in The World According to Garp. I wonder just how many words make it into our vernacular that way. You always give me something to think about. Thanks!

  4. Hey Christine,
    I'm a big fan of "undertoad" too.
    Thanks for coming by.

  5. This was a particularly fun post, Charlie. I, too, especially like the "hoosegow," "half-assed," and "bug-eyed" derivations. My sister and I always called each other "stooge." I wish she were alive so I could share the probably origin with her.

    Another word used in Spain for court is the Catalan word "jutjat," which English speakers have a heck of a time pronouncing. I wonder what we could make of it.

    Some fun words used by our family derived from wee ones' mispronunciations are "hoppadoctor" for helicopter, "instink" for instinct, "kaykoo," for thank you, and "dub-ee-dubs" for bugs.