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Cupboard 2 Doors White Matt 150X50X90H

This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Pot of Basil: a rant.

 If you want to make something classy, well, then you attach a classy label to it.

The supermarket Tesco has introduced a new kind of basil. It's sold planted in pots, and it's part of their highest-quality FINEST range.

They've called it Isabella.

Now, that's really posh, because of course Isabella, or the Pot of Basil is the title of a narrative poem by Keats (who stole the story from Boccaccio).

Personally, though, I think the stuff would sell better if someone at Tesco had got round to reading either Keats or Boccaccio before they named it.

Word To Use Today: basil. This word comes from the Old French basile, and originally from the Greek basileus, king. There are various unconvincing stories connecting the plant with kings - Alexander the Great is said to have brought it from India to Europe, and some people have said that it should only be picked by a king with a golden sickle. Basil also has the quality of being quite harmless and occasionally helpful when used as a medicine, which at one time might have made it seem a king of healing.

As for Isabella...

In her story, Isabella's brothers kill her lover Lorenzo, and she promptly goes bonkers and plants his severed head in a pot of basil seed, where it sprouts in the most ghastly way.

Can't say I fancy eating any basil called Isabella, myself.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Nuts and Bolts: words ending -archy.

 One ring to rule them all,

One ring to find them

One ring to bring them all

And in the darkness bind them.

...which would, I suppose, make Sauron's projected rule of Middle Earth a dactylethronarchy, or rule by a ring, but as far as I know no one in this world has ever tried it.

Rule by many kinds of other authorities have been tried, though. Autocracy is rule by a single rapidly-degenerating-into-madness person (though if they're selected by a lottery system then that's demarchy; and if the system is hereditary then that's a monarchy); biarchy is the same thing, but with two people rapidly degenerating into mutual hatred; decarchy has a committee of ten people in charge, and there are also words for rules by other numbers of people: octarchy, pentarchy, polyarchy. tetrarchy, and triarchyEndarchy is any centralised system of rule (unless you're a botanist, when it's a system where fluids spread out from the centre of the plant). Futarchy is a system devised by Robin Hanson where people are ruled by principles that will tend to make them happy; gynarchy is rule by women; hierarchy is the system where the rulers are ranked in order of importance; holarchy is rule by...well. people are still arguing about that, but the basic idea seems to be that everyone is valuable for themselves; kritarchy is rule by judges.

Then we have rule by:

children - paedoarchy 

male head of family/group/everything - patriarchy

female head of family/group/everything - matriarchy

tribe/class - phylarchy

saints - hagiarchy

groups that take it in turns, depending - heterarchy

more or less anyone, but they're all horrible - kyriarchy

a group - oligarchy

the church - ecclesiarchy

someone the church hates - heresiarchy

rich people - plutarchy

poor people - ptochocarchy (except that this word doesn't actually seem to exist, which is no surprise at all. However, there is a word ptochocracy).

And, finally, depressingly, anarchy is rule by no one.

Personally, I just wish to know as little as possible about any of them.

Word To Use Today: one ending -archy. In Greek, arkhein means to rule.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Pearl Export Bass Drum Shell 22”x16” Bare Wood Project / Upcycle

 A regmaker?

Well, reg in English words generally stands for something to do with ruling or reigning, so a regmaker is, obviously, someone who's trying to push forward a new head of state, yes?


Not even close.

Thing To Suggest To A Bear With A Sore Head Today: regmaker. A regmaker, in South Africa, is a hang-over cure, or a pick-me-up. You say the g as in the ch of the Scottish loch, and the a as in father. Reg in Africaans means right, and maker means, er, maker.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Spot the Frippet: railings.

 There's no special reason for spotting a railing. They're just lovely:

photo by Man vri

photo by Tynishashafs

photo by Annatsach

photo by Jimmypader

aren't they?

Spot the Frippet: railings. The word rail comes from the Old French raille, rod, from the Latin rēgula, which means a ruler or other straight piece of wood.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Telescopic Back Scratcher Massager Extendable Portable Pocket 1p

 There comes a point when people of taste begin hoping that the love of their lives won't buy them a Valentine's card.

Or a scarlet teddy bear, either.

Frayromantic is an excellent word to describe the erosion of that kind of starry-eyed obsession, and the emergence of something slightly more clear-eyed.

Sadly, it doesn't describe anything of the sort. It actually describes someone who only experiences romantic feelings towards people they don't know, who hardly know.

Ah well.

Sunday Rest: frayromantic. I have found a source online which says that the fray- bit of this word comes from an Old English word for stranger, but, as far as I can see, there isn't any such Old English word for stranger, so that's a bit of a puzzle. 

The romantic bit of the word is to do with telling stories, and is basically the same word as Roman.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Saturday Rave: Corinna's Going a-Maying by Robert Herrick

 This looks like a long poem, but it's full of such eager joy that I couldn't bear to leave out any of it.

Maying traditionally involves girls going out at dawn into the fields and woods to pick flowers. 

Young men are usually more than willing to accompany them.

Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne

Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.

                     See how Aurora throwes her faire

                     Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:

                     Get up, sweet-Slug-a-bed, and see

                     The Dew-bespangling Herbe and Tree.

Each Flower has wept, and bow'd toward the East,

Above an houre since; yet you not drest,

                     Nay! not so much as out of bed?

                     When all the Birds have Mattens seyd,

                     And sung their thankful Hymnes: 'tis sin,

                     Nay, profanation to keep in,

When as a thousand Virgins on this day,

Spring, sooner than the Lark, to fetch in May.


Rise; and put on your Foliage, and be seene

To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and greene;

                     And sweet as Flora. Take no care

                     For Jewels for your Gowne, or Haire:

                     Feare not; the leaves will strew

                     Gemms in abundance upon you:

Besides, the childhood of the Day has kept,

Against you come, some Orient Pearls unwept:

                     Come, and receive them while the light

                     Hangs on the Dew-locks of the night:

                     And Titan on the Eastern hill

                     Retires himselfe, or else stands still

Till you come forth. Wash, dresse, be briefe in praying:

Few Beads are best, when once we goe a Maying.


Come, my Corinna, come; and comming, marke

How each field turns a street; each street a Parke

                     Made green, and trimm'd with trees: see how

                     Devotion gives each House a Bough,

                     Or Branch: Each Porch, each doore, ere this,

                     An Arke a Tabernacle is

Made up of white-thorn neatly enterwove;

As if here were those cooler shades of love.

                     Can such delights be in the street,

                     And open fields, and we not see't?

                     Come, we'll abroad; and let's obay

                     The Proclamation made for May:

And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;

But my Corinna, come, let's goe a Maying.


There's not a budding Boy, or Girle, this day,

But is got up, and gone to bring in May.

                     A deale of Youth, ere this, is come

                     Back, and with White-thorn laden home.

                     Some have dispatcht their Cakes and Creame,

                     Before that we have left to dreame:

And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted Troth,

And chose their Priest, ere we can cast off sloth:

                     Many a green-gown has been given;

                     Many a kisse, both odde and even:

                     Many a glance too has been sent

                     From out the eye, Loves Firmament:

Many a jest told of the Keyes betraying

This night, and Locks pickt, yet w'are not a Maying.


Come, let us goe, while we are in our prime;

And take the harmlesse follie of the time.

                     We shall grow old apace, and die

                     Before we know our liberty.

                     Our life is short; and our dayes run

                     As fast away as do's the Sunne:

And as a vapour, or a drop of raine

Once lost, can ne'r be found againe:

                     So when or you or I are made

                     A fable, song, or fleeting shade;

                     All love, all liking, all delight

                     Lies drown'd with us in endlesse night.

Then while time serves, and we are but decaying;

Come, my Corinna, come, let's goe a Maying.


Word To Use Today: May. This word comes from Old French, from the Roman goddess with the same name as the Greek goddess Maia. Maia is a goddess of the Earth, and a notably sparky creature. Her name is probably something to do with the Greek word maiores, which means great, with the same kind of meaning as in our own English word great-grandmother.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Word To Use Today: epicaricacy.

 The Word Den is all for the brotherhood of all man, so here's the word epicaricacy to help. 

Well, a bit.

Until now, most English-speaking people have believed that there's no English word for the German Schadenfreude (that is, pleasure gained from witnessing the misfortunes of others, particularly big-headed others. There's a definite sense that the misfortune is in some way deserved).

This has allowed English-speakers to kid themselves that they are in some ways less envious, and more generous and forgiving, than German-speakers. 

What it actually means, though, is that English speakers don't know their own language.

The English word for Schadenfreude is the lovely word epicaricacy

You say it eppiCArikassy.

At least, when I say it's English, it's obviously originally Greek. And almost no one has ever used it - it's not even to be found in my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. But Richard Burton used it in 1621 in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Nathan Bailey put it in his 1721 dictionary, so that's English enough for me.

Word To Use Today: epicaricacy. This word is made up of three bits of Greek: epi, which means upon, karis, which means joy, and kakos, which means evil. 

Aristotle wrote about it, so the idea's been around for quite a while.