Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Meaning: serial rumpy-pumpy, as in, with one person and then another.

Usefulness: 3 (I can only imagine this being used in a derogatory sense, so usefulness depends on your need for such a descriptor; discussing rugby scandals, perhaps?)

Logofascination: 1 (Invented by Sir Thomas to expand Rabelais' French - see quotes below. I used rumpy-pumpy in the definition not for fear of offending your delicate sensibilities but to allude to croup.    Ser- is fairly straightforward, and presumably from the same root as series. Croup is an older word meaning the rump or hindquarters of a horse, and is actually the root of croupier.)

In the wild: No.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Meaning: the state of having the desire to see

Usefulness: 1 (Could apply to people visiting opthalmologists, or to the relative appeal of the latest blockbuster: "George Lucas does not inspire visuriency in the public in the way he used to." Or, of course, various aspects of voyeurism.)

Logofascination: 1 (Due to being invented by Sir Thomas; related to video, of course.)

In the wild: Not really, but another of Sir Thomas' words which turns up in The Horologicon.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Meaning: the state of having the desire to touch

Usefulness: 1 ("Textured fabrics induce a terrible tacturiency in me; I find it hard to resist touching velvet." Or a sign in a shop: "Whatever your tacturiency, please resist.")

Logofascination: 1 (Besides being invented by Sir Thomas for one of his more well-known original passages, this lead to an interesting consideration of the difference between a word ending in ence - tacturience - or ency. I think it's that tacturience is the desire to touch, while tacturiency is being in the state of having that desire. As ever, clarification welcome.)

In the wild: Besides appearing in The Horologicon, it turns up in the usual logofascinated corners of the internet, and also as the name of a rather alternative art project. At least, I think it was art.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Meaning: Divination by belly button; apparently inspection of a baby's navel can reveal the number of children the mother will bear, although there's another theory that this originally involved counting the number of knots in the umbilical cord.

Usefulness: 1 (Forget numbers of children, it's terribly useful to have a word for the outcome of omphaloskepsis* - consideration of one's navel. "How did you arrive at this result, Jenkins?" "It took considerable omphalomancy, sir, but we go there in the end.")

Logofascination: 2 (I like this almost as much as tyromancy, but etymologically it's just the Greek for navel and -mancy.)

In the wild:  Not really, but someone has helpfully compiled a montage of bellybuttons for Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Meaning: A flock or flight of birds, or a large aviary - Cotgrave:
A great cage, or coope wherein birds have roome ynough to flutter.
Usefulness: 2 (Mainly to trick people; I was quite excited when I saw this word, because I liked the idea of something full of voles.)

Logofascination: 2 (This might be coloured by my disappointment on discovering that voleries are not, in fact, full of voles, but it is an example of the quirks of word formation. From the French word voliere of the same meaning, in turn from voler, to fly, and etymologically unrelated to the vole.)

In the wild: Gets mentioned occasionally as an exotic collective noun.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Meaning: It eventually meant an associate, friend, partner, but the OED defines its oldest sense as "A person with whom one copes or contends; an adversary, antagonist."

Usefulness: 1 (Someone you cope or contend with? This word is ripe for resurrection regarding office companions, housemates, and - depending on your family - siblings. "A new copesmate joined our team today; she bought muffins, so we think we're going to like her.")

Logofascination: 1 (This makes more sense when you realise that cope originally meant "to come to blows with". Like cope, copesmate has evolved from that antagonistic origin, with a diversion into meaning adulterous lover, paramour and/or spouse.)

In the wild: Shakespeare uses it in The Rape of Lucrece
'Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night,
Swift subtle post, carrier of grisly care,
Eater of youth, false slave to false delight,
Base watch of woes, sin's pack-horse, virtue's snare;
Thou nursest all and murder'st all that are:
O, hear me then, injurious, shifting Time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Meaning:  To bewilder. Cotgrave borrows some synonyms from incornifistibulating to define the French version:
To trouble, blunder, or or pester the mind with, to beat the braines about.
Usefulness: 1 (It just sounds right: "I"m just so emblustricated!" "Your emblustrications won't work this time, my friend." "I managed to emblustricate the boss enough that he just agreed to my pay rise!")

Logofascination: 1 (Even if it weren't a 0-degree word, the OED etymology note would improve its rating: "Whimsically formed to render the equally fantastic French emburelucoquer." We who are logofascinated salute you, oh distant lexicographer.)

In the wild: not really.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Meaning: Frame glosses this as counterweights which, in context (below), seems about right; something like the weights in a clock, perhaps.

Usefulness: 3 (I'd be impressed if you could work this into conversation, but Rabelais' line might be worth learning.)

Logofascination: 2 (From the Latin for thread and hanging, I wonder if Rabelais is suggesting that these counterweights are flimsily suspended).

In the wild: Although filopendulums isn't defined anywhere, the botanically-inspired filipendulous was recommended by the OED today.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Meaning: exuding sweetness, overly sweet.

Usefulness: 1 (With a suggestion of artificiality, it's a useful way to describe those who are, well, artificially sweet.)

Logofascination: (Ezra Pound coined it for one of his Cantos, consigning the saccharescent to an eternity in glucose. It was written just after World War I, which was apparently, when saccharin became more widely used. The artificiality of saccharin and the abstract chemistry of glucose against the absent sugar; it's a modern Hell that Pound is imagining.)

In the wild: In Canto XV, which is particularly Boschian, so I'd only look it up if you're feeling strong-stomached and / or cynical.  If you're after something a bit lighter, I found it in this quiz.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave*: A budget-maker... as in Bougette.  (Bougette: A little coffer, or trunke of wood, covered with leather, wherewith the women of old time carried their jewels, attires, and trinkets at their saddle bowes, when they rid into the countrey; now gentlemen call so, both any such trunke; and the box, or till of their Cabinets wherein they keepe their money; also, a little male, pouch, or budget.)

Usefulness: 1 (Apologies for the intermittent posting recently; by day I'm an accountant, or, as my new business cards will proclaim, a bougetier. Budgets, whether the bags or chests of old, or the spreadsheets of new, take time and energy from important things like how many synonyms Sir Thomas had for bodily functions.)

Logofascination: 1 (Etymologically, budgets are little bags, related to bulges and bellies, and by meaning, to postmen. The male mentioned by Cotgrave above is our mail.)

In the wild: Since it's technically a French word, only on French sites. If you think they're wild, you need to get out more.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave: divination by water in a basin. Often involves adding something to the water and observing the patterns: oil, tiles, etc.

Usefulness: 3 (I might have been fascinated 31 -mancys ago, but things are at the point where even my mother is over the -mancys. There is one more, but it's pretty boring so I'll be doing the most interesting of the other -mancys out there and then stopping.  These have all been from the one chapter of the third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel, for those of you who missed the start.)

Logofascination: 2 (Divination by dish: pretty straightforward, but highlights the lack of other descendants from the λεκάνη root.)

In the wild: No, but I'm rather fond of the intro to the Wikipedia article: "a form of divination which, like many ancient forms of divination, has multiple interpretations".  I wonder sometimes if this is because only  three people ever practiced them. )

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Today is the 460th anniversary of Rabelais' death (probably, although we're more certain of that than of the day - or year - of his birth).  You can see a few of my favourite quotes* over on @SDOSTU. If you need a word fix, here are some coined by Rabelais himself and Anglicised by Sir Thomas:




*that I could get down to 140 characters, anyway. The wipe-bummatory chapter was unfortunately eliminated. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


Meaning: between the breasts; Sir Thomas helpfully provides a Latinate synonym, intermammillary.

Usefulness: 2 (Perhaps best used as Sir Thomas did, to describe jewellery: "Your metamazion ornament is lovely; where did you get it?" Although I have known those of a more bathycolpian tendency to store things - including, occasionally, mobile phones - metamazionally.)

Logofascination: 1 (A Sir Thomas original, which I suspect would be more widely known if it'd ended up in  his G&P. From meta-, obviously, and mazo-, a variant of Greek masto-, relating to the breast. Mazo- is part of some Greek folk etymology - i.e. probably wrong - for the Amazons.)

In the wild: No, but the OED thinks that formations using mazo- were only found from the 19th century, so I'll have to let them know. They do have intermammillary, also a Sir Thomas original (see quote below), meaning you get two zero degree words in one post. Bargain.

Degrees: 0

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: Ekskybalauron. As mentioned the other day, the Admirable Chrichton meets a sad end, and the entire court mourn him:
most of the young ladies likewise, that were anything handsome*, in a memorial of his worth, had his effigies in a little oval tablet of gold hanging 'twixt their breasts, and held, for many yeers together, that metamazion, or intermammilary ornament, an as necessary outward pendicle** for the better setting forth of their accoutrements, as either fan, watch, or stomacher.

 *Sir Thomas is probably using this in an earlier sense, meaning well-mannered, decent.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Where to read Rabelais

According to D. B. Wyndham Lewis:
RABELAIS must be read among the rich lands of the Chionnais in Touraine, on the edge of a white road with cornfields and vineyards on either side. But let there be a farmyard near, with a ripe and aromatic muck-heap in it, the scent of which must be borne to you on the wind; and let there be also loud bursts of rustic laughter and a bottle of Chinon.
Via LTA, which has Wyndham Lewis' thoughts on other authors.

Rabelais was probably born somewhere near Chinon, in the region then called the Touraine. Wyndham Lewis wrote a biography of Rabelais (Doctor Rabelais, 1957) and said that rather than seeing Rabelais as a kind of Renaissance superhero, he considered him to be
a highly cultivated, brilliant, jolly, slightly alcoholic, quick-tempered member of the French professional bourgeoisie talking gloriously at high speed and occasionally making an ass of himself.
Which seems a much more human perspective to me.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Meaning: Etymologically, the song of the billy-goat. No, really. Here's Cotgrave with a more traditional* definition:
a statelie Play whose conclusion is dolefull, and doubtfull.
Usefulness: 2 (Very useful, but downgraded due to overuse.)

Logofascination: 1 (I'm sure some of you knew this etymology already, but it's just such a great story. Plus, goats. The OED entry refers to Mr Flickinger's article from 1913, available here if you're after 20 pages of philology on the matter. It should be pointed out that the OED entry hasn't been updated since 1913, so there may well be more recent scholarship on the matter.  For those of you who haven't heard it before, tragedy is from the Greek for male goat - tragos - and song, but no-one can really agree on the reason for this.)

In the wild: See if you can find a newspaper that doesn't use it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave, ever honest:
Palmistrie; a guessing at ones fortune by the markes, or making, of his hand.
Usefulness: 3 (I suppose you could extend it to the practice of judging people by their handshake, but it's not the most interesting of words.)

Logofascination: 2 (From the Greek for hand and divination, of course, and therefore related to chironomatic. And, yes, chiropractors.)

In the wild: Palmistry is one of the more well known -mancys, so there are any number of discussions out there. Of course, what one chiromancer considers blatantly obvious, another will dismiss as archaic nonsense, so if you must Google, do so wisely and widely.


Meaning: a hot, dry African wind - one of the winds whose names are lovelier than the reality (not that I've experienced one... yet).

Usefulness: 3 (I've known this word for a long time, but I think this is the first time I've used it.)

Logofascination: 1 (There's something about the names of winds: they have their own Wikipedia article, and there are slightly different lists all over the internet. Growing up, I took the Fremantle Doctor for granted, not realising how lucky I was to know a wind with a name, let alone a pleasant one*. The simoon** is, etymologically, poison.)

In the wild:  Yes; I discovered it as the name of a submarine, a Polish espionage movie, and in various bits of Bible commentary.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Meaning: use of a dialect in writing, originally from the alleged influence of the dialect of Padua (Patavium) on Livy's writing.

Usefulness: 1 (As literary criticism: "I don't mind patavinity, but some writers take it much too far." Or just to make it sound like you know something about Roman writers.)

Logofascination: 2

In the wild: No, unless you're prepared to stretch 'wild' to include history texts.