Thursday, 22 November 2007

Booking through Thursday - Connecting Words

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Joanna and Brad are asking about “connecting words,” and they don’t mean conjunctions like “and” or “but.” No, what they’re looking for are unique, or treasured words that we’ve found out and about in our daily travels, words that might not be common usage, or often heard, but which struck a chord for some reason.

Words are important to me; my husband and I used to play a game where one chose an obscure word from dictionary and offered a choice of definitions; the other had to choose the right one. My younger son once offered, as definition for Tagalog (indigenous language in the Philippines): that bit at the start of a television programme where they tell you what happened last time and what’s coming in this episode (and the opposite, therefore, of epilogue). I still think of them that way.

It’s family legend that my great grandmother carried diffidence to extremes. She had several expressions to denote very small quantities, I believe, but at one meal she was asked if she would care for some more roast beef. “Just a tentacle, dear,” she replied. We still use it in appropriate circumstances.

My mother-in-law was given to Malapropisms. When she was taking driving lessons she announced that she had put her foot on the “exhilarator”. She was very cross to be laughed at.

Growing up in Scotland I became rather attached to a number of dialect words. While brushing its hair a fidgeting child might be admonished, “Stop shoogling about.” A colleague was complimented by a Canadian student on her “nice vest”, which would have offended her greatly had she not recalled that overseas a vest is not the garment worn closest to the skin, so he was not remarking overfamiliarly on the scrap of lace showing from her camisole – what in Scots she called a “sinnet”.

Here on the Northumberland coast in summer we can have beautiful weather. I love the way our garden basks in sunlight. Pity poor Berwick-on-Tweed, though. Just where the town boundary begins, a murky, yellowy-brown cloud can be observed. This is the famous local “haar”, a Norse word for mist, which must doom many afternoons on the wonderful golden beaches to damp and shivering misery.

12 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

My dad was not fond of plain rice with curry. We are Indians and that is the staple diet. In order to be able to eat, he once asked for 'rice pusher' meaning the chutney to help him eat it better. He is gone but 'rice pusher' stays. We use it frequently!!

Chris said...

I would wonder why someone would be offended by 'nice vest'! lol. I take for granted that everyone knows what I mean.

Brad Shorr said...

Thanks for participating in our project. I enjoyed your post very much. We played the same "dictionary game" in college. Always fun.

Alice Teh said...

Interesting answer! I read Beowulf (the Caitlin Kiernan version) and learned a few names in Norse mythology. I'm going to read the actual classic poem. I tell you, the whole Beowulf saga runs in my head even when I sleep. It's getting a little creepy...

GeraniumCat said...

Gautami, I love "rice pusher" - we eat lots of curry too, and I'm going to use it in future!

Chris, for a moment before she realised that vest wasn't underwear, my friend looked really po-faced. Now, is that an expression that's got to Canada?

Brad, we had a long-running TV show in Britain based on the game, it was very good for the vocabulary.

Alice, good luck with reading Beowulf - you'll know what a haar is, if it turns up!

Joanna Young said...

Hi geraniumcat

Thanks for sharing some of the stories about your family and friends that went with these words - they help to bring them to life...

I'm feeling a great sense of connection with some of your words - shoogle is a favourite of mine, and as I live in Edinburgh the haar is well known indeed!

Thanks for joining in, teaching us all some new words and making some creative connections...

Joanna

mountainear said...

What is it that is said about us and our US neighbours? - 'divided by a common language'?
We moved from Manchester to the Shropshire/Welsh border and found, only about 80 miles down the road such a different use of language - familiar words used in different ways and new words too. We should celebrate this diversity in an increasingly homogenised world.

--Deb said...

I've never heard "shoogle" before, either--what a nice, tasty word!

Still, though, I'm wondering about what kind of beast you roasted for that roast beef, if it had tentacles.... (grin)

GeraniumCat said...

M'ear, I couldn't agree more. We have a wonderful range of expressions that shouldn't be lost. I think I'm going to write a follow up post...

Deb, glad you like "shoogle"; it's dear to my heart.

Joanna, it seems whenever I come up to Edinburgh I leave home in dry weather and arrive at the station to find yet another dreich Edinburgh day!

Ann Darnton said...

Oh dear! I'm sad enough to have known what Tagalog actually means. I should get out more!

Becca said...

We've just spent a family holiday playing a new game called bananagrams ... where we decided, as a family, to make up words as well as form legitimate ones. It was fabulous fun and the living room rang with laughter. I wish I had known enough to say" stop shoogling around!"

GeraniumCat said...

Becca, that sounds fun. Word games are just great for families - so very portable!