Monday, March 19, 2007

Kay's Wonderful World of Weird Words #1

Welcome to a grey March day in Ohio! The weather is changing almost by the minute so within the last week we've had snow, rain, and beautiful sunshine. Bet y'all can't guess which I liked best! At any rate, Spring is approaching and this old gal is delighted except that next month I have one of those dreaded birthdays that end in zero. Sigh. Oh well, as someone wiser than I said: "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." But I digress from my thoughts for today . . .

Some of you may know that I am a rabid and unrepentant logophile which has been defined as "lover of words" and "slave to words." Both apply to me. The latter because of my love and need to write and the former because I have an unceasing fascination with language and all its many facets so I subscribe to about a half dozen mailing lists that send me a word each day. Each includes the definition and some include the history and etymology, i.e., the roots of the word. Most of the words I receive are pretty mundane but others simply astound me and I scratch my head asking, "Who'd have thunk there was such a word?" and try to figure out how to work it into conversation or writing.

I have also been very interested in the roots of words since I studied linguistics in college and had to write a paper exploring the etymology of five English words on a related subject. Dr. Baxter, our prof, was a rather staid sort despite his being the same age (39 at that time) and era as yours truly, and Spring fever was upon us so we all chose off-the-wall topics. Mine was probably the tamestc: alcoholic beverages. The kids all chose things like swear words or sexual terms. At any rate, I had a ball seeing how the words I chose came into our language and have been hooked on word origins ever since. (Did you know that the word 'whiskey' is derived from the old Celtic word ouisquebaugh? It meant "water of life" and many an Irishman will tell you it's true!) By the way, I got an A which surprised me 'cause Dr. B. was pretty stingy with As.

In the past few weeks, a couple words have really caught my fancy and I wanted to share them with y'all and ruminate a tad on them. recently delivered 'hoghenhine'. It's a English medieval legal term defined as a legal member of one's family or a visitor who stays past the third night in someone else's home. In medieval times it was customary for travelers to spend the night in stranger's homes -- no Holiday Inn or Motel 6 back then. Under English medieval law if a visitor stayed three nights or more, he/she wasn't a stranger and therefore a family member for whose actions the head of household was responsible. Scary thought, huh? One could be beheaded (they weren't wimpy about punishment in those days) if you let some poor schmuck stay an extra night and he insults the king! No wonder Ben Franklin said, "Fish and house guests stink after three days." I'm still trying to figure out how to work it into conversation. The best I can come up with is: The Man is my hoghenhine and I am his. LOL We each have spent more than three nights in each other's homes but somehow I don't think either of wishes to take on the responsibility implied by this word.

A.Word.A.Day left me laughing hysterically when they sent 'omphaloskepsis' which is the art of contemplating one's navel. In fact, I emailed it to various friends who I thought would giggle, too. Go figure -- there's a word for that. Its roots, as y'all probably guessed, are in ancient Greek -- from "omphalos" which means navel and "skepsis" which means enquiry. It results from a group of mystics called omphalopsychics who practiced staring at the navel to spur hyponotic meditation. And that was a news flash to me and leads me to ask those of you who are into meditation to try this and let me know if it works. I mean it.

This one's an oldie. A while back good old sent me my all-time favorite word: sesquipedalian. It means given to using long words or a very long word. It was used by the ancient Roman poet Horace in his Ars Poetica which may have been the first international bestseller. I love this word. I use it rather frequently. I'm wont -- probably because I read too much -- to use words of multiple syllables and quite often I am berated because I do by those who don't. They ask, "Why do you use such big words?" Now I just shrug and tell them: "I'm sesquipadalian." It works for me and so what if they think I'm nuts?

Hope you enjoyed my words today as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you! I'll be back with some more new pieces soon!

Happy Blogging!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  1. Kay, I enjoyed reading this. I, too am a student of words and phrases, and I like finding out how they came in to our language. I think that that only thing you would get from omphaloskepsis is a bad back (from bending over)...LOL

    Thanks for the visit. I'd like to know the links to some of those sites; the only one I get is

  2. I see my navel in the mirror every day but it's been awhile... years... since I was able to gaze directly at it, contemplatively or not. I just breathe.

  3. Interesting blog. I too appreciate words and their origins. I have added you to my blog list.

  4. Hi!Kay,
    So wonderful of you to stop by!!Across the Altantic, as it were (I wish it were!!)Well..I'm glad that the pilaf turned out well-it's so easy, and has a million variations!I will be back-we are all well-just caught up with the nitty gritties of life....
    Thanks.It feels so good-that warmth across the miles...

  5. I've been delayed in visiting your blog, because I've been meditating -- you know, practicing omphaloskepsis ever since some kind soul send me an email about it.

    I must tell you, though, that it has come as quite a shock to me to learn that not only are you radioactive but also, a logophile. What is this world coming to!

  6. You are a fountain of infomation Kay...thanks. I'm a word person, though I'm not sure I could officially be called a kind of sounds freaky. You have to be careful what you 'phile' yourself under these days.

  7. You are a fountain of infomation Kay...thanks. I'm a word person, though I'm not sure I could officially be called a kind of sounds freaky. You have to be careful what you 'phile' yourself under these days.

  8. lol Joy -- the alternative was 'linguaphile' which sounds pretty kinky to me so I can live with logophile.

    Sounds, like we've been busy, joared, between your navel & my radiating. lol What a pair we are!

    Always glad to see you here Veenu -- hope your life settles a bit!

    Toom -- thanks for finding me! I like your blog, too!

    AQ -- lol just keep being you -- that's all we ask.

    Judy -- I sent you the links and have since found some new ones which I will forward.

    Glad y'all enjoyed these -- I'll prolly do another one of these days.


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