Lazing about doing nothing useful.
Nothing like it.
Some good folks published an entire dictionary about it in 2011. Sloth - A Dictionary for the Lazy, is a part of Adams Media’s The Deadly Dictionaries series. This particular volume defines 154 pages worth of lazy-related words, interspersed with sloth-related quotations. Here are some highlights:
aposiopesis – noun – (1570s) the state one is in when one stops speaking mid-sentence, either due to the inability to finish the thought, or sheer stubbornness.
fainéant – noun – (1610) a lazy person or slacker. Also an adjective to describe such a person.
hebetude – noun – (1620s) state of laziness or indolence.
looby – noun – (1377) an awkward, lazy person or lout.
shilly-shally – verb – (1703) to vacillate or be indecisive, to dawdle or waste time.
somniferous – adjective – (1600) having the ability to cause sleepiness.
sponger – noun – (1670s) one who allows others to provide all his/her needs, a freeloader.
weltschmerz – noun – (1875) the state of being world-weary, pessimistic or apathetic.
Followers, what slothful words do you appreciate? Let me know in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Sloth – A Dictionary for the Lazy, & Etymonline (image from BetterColoring.com).
In tribute to the public servants putting themselves in harm's way through exposing the truth during the impeachment hearings, how about a look into the roots of the words public & service?
Public showed up in English in the 1300s as an adjective through Old French from the Latin word publicus, meaning of the state, of the people, general, ordinary, or vulgar (oops – someone’s elitism is showing). By the 1600s public was also being used as a noun, meaning commonwealth, or public property. It is related to the words people, populace, popular, publicity, publican, puberty, & pub. Its medieval English synonym, folclic, sadly, never made it out of the Middle Ages.
The word public first aligned itself with the word service in 1893, giving us public service.
Service also came through Old French from Latin, though it appeared in English two centuries before public. The Latin donor word was servitium, which meant slavery or servitude, and came directly from the Latin word for slave, servus. Within a century, service’s meaning had generalized to simply mean the act of serving (not necessarily due to enslavement). By the late 1400s tea service was born and by the 1500s service picked up its military meaning. In 1941 service & industry found one another & service industry was born.
But back to the public servants testifying in the impeachment hearings. Most of us don't have the skinny on people in power, but w can still provide a l little public service:
Moving a grocery cart so it won’t whack into someone’s car,
Recommending a great book,
Offering a hand to someone who could use it,
Contributing time or resources to a social or environmental cause...
Maybe afterward we could all meet somewhere where we can enjoy being served – like maybe the pub.
Please leave a note in the comments section about some public service you’re aware of that warms the cockles of your heart (there’s a future Wordmonger post, eh?) or a public service you’re likely to engage in this week.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Collins Dictionary, the OED, United Nations, & Etymonline,
I’ve always been fond of the word ilk. It’s just far enough outside the everyday words of my suburban American life that hearing it sparks that unexpected thrill of baklava or pointilism or mariachi music – just rare enough to make me smile.
In Old English, ilk was spelled ilca & meant same. It could be used as both a noun & adjective. It came from the Proto-Germanic word, ij-lik, which also spawned the recently beleaguered word, like.
I’ll admit it, I am among those annoying teachers & adults who frown upon the use of the word like as a filler:
Like, the word ilk just makes me smile.
It also curdles my cheese when like is used as a discourse particle -- I’m like, “Dude, I love the word ilk.”
Though many assume that Moon Unit Zappa & all those Valley Girls are responsible for both twisted usages, the discourse particle usage predates Moon Unit’s birth (1967) & the first written instance of like as a filler appeared in1886 in Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson: “’What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.”
Interestingly, some other earlier forms of the adjective like didn’t make it to the modern vernacular, but instead, faded out in the 1700s. Consider the words liker & likest:
The moon is liker the earth than the sun.
Osbaldo is the person likest me in my family.
My wonderful 1959 Webster’s new World Dictionary suggests that like can function as all these parts of speech, though I find the asterisked ones hard to swallow:
a verb -
Phoebe likes figs smothered in melted brie.
an adjective –
After Garcon’s outburst, Consuela responded in like manner.
a noun -
Like attracts like.
an adverb -
Due to his old Anglo-Saxon work ethic, Yalmer works like mad.
a pronoun* -
Ahmed was like a man possessed.
a conjunction* -
It was just like Ludwiga said, Terence simply had no sense.
a preposition* -
Quimby is like a walking encyclopedia.
and as a suffix -
When he pouts like that, Umberto can be so childlike.
Dear followers, what do you have to say about the usage (or misusage) of like, or about the sheer beauty of ilk?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Merriam Webster, The Hot Word, Denise Winterman’s BBC article, & Etymonline,
Don’t you love those words that can mean exactly the opposite of what they mean? They’ve been called many names over the years, though none of those names have really stuck: contranyms, antilogies, eniantodromes, and Janus words. I’m fond of that final one, which refers to the two-faced Roman god of transitions, Janus.
A few of my favorite Janus words:
Fast: either something can hold fast, or it can move fast.
Strike: either I can strike the ball or miss the ball & strike out.
Garnish: either a garnish is something added, like parsley on one’s dinner plate, or something subtracted, as in garnished wages.
Citation: I can receive a citation of merit for some good deed, or a traffic citation for a deed of vehicular repute.
Bill: either one receives a bill for what one owes, or one can be paid in bills when one is owed.
Host: I can be helpful by hosting a website or hosting a party, or I can cross to the dark side and host a disease.
Oversight: I can be in charge of the oversight of employees, or I can ignore my responsibilities & be guilty of oversight.
Swipe: I can do what the society honors and swipe my credit card, or I can do what society abhors & swipe something off the shelf.
Dear followers, what other Janus words would you add to the list?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Fun With Words &Etymonline,
Janus image source
As the holiday season approaches, it’s likely we’ll all soon be enjoying some beverages. So, here’s to all that:
Sip comes from a Low German word, sippen, meaning to sip. It entered English as supan in the 1400s.
Gulp also entered the language in the 1400s & appears to be onomatopoeic, meaning to gush, pour forth, guzzle or swallow. Gulp most likely came from the Flemish word gulpe, which meant stream of water or large draught.
Slurp is most likely another onomatopoeic word. It came from the Dutch word slurpen & entered English in its verb form in the 1640s, but took until 1949 to become a noun.
Glug is also onomatopoeic & showed up in the language in 1768 from some unspecified source.
Slug was first recorded meaning take a drink in 1756. It may have come from the Irish word slog, to swallow, or from a colorful English idiom meaning to take a drink, to take a slug.
In the 1540s, the noun swig meant a big or hearty drink of liquor. A century later, swig graduated into use as a verb.
By 1889, the idiom to take a snort entered English, meaning to have a drink of liquor, especially whiskey.
Whether you’re gulping, slurping, demurely sipping or letting down your hair & taking a snort, may the season's liquid refreshments bring you joy.
Oh, & please feel free to leave a comment.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Wordnik, Merriam Webster, & Etymonline,
English is rife with idioms involving walking. Most have pretty shakily documented origins, but here are a few verifiable ones:
In the 1570s the idiom walking stick was born.
In 1769 the first written usage of walk the plank occurred.
In 1846 the idiom walking sickness was coined. Oddly, the term walking pneumonia has unclear beginnings, though the particular strain (mycoplasmal pneumonia) was named “atypical pneumonia” in 1938.
In 1848 the idiom worship the ground s/he walks on entered the language.
A walk in the park was born in 1937, and sometime thereafter, the term no walk in the park was conceived.
And imagine my surprise. The term walking bass didn't start with stride piano and musicians like the inimitable Fats Waller. The walking bass was created over two centuries earlier by Johann Sebastian Bach & his baroque pals. My musical ignorance is showing.
In a similar vein, though most people of my generation might assume the idiom a walk on the wild side was conceived in 1972 by songwriter Lou Reed, the earliest usage of the phrase was actually Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.
The idiom walk the green mile comes from the death row of an infamous Louisiana prison, in which the condemned took their final walk down a hallway of green linoleum.
World War I gave us many idioms, among them (sadly) the walking wounded.
The walk a mile in someone’s shoes idiom comes from the Cherokee. Interesting that the original walked-in shoes were moccasins. What do you bet nobody paid for the idiom?
Please add a comment, or a walking idiom I haven’t included.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Wordnik, The Word Detective, & Etymonline,
There are some great words out there for those moments when one feels as though death is dragging its bony finger up one’s spine. Here are a few.
Comments like, “that man gives me the willies,” were favorites of my great grandmother, Sally Rather King. This usage of willies (unlike other forms which beg for another post) came about in 1896 (a decade or two after my great grandmother was born) & is believed to have come from an earlier idiom, to give one the woolies, which was most likely a reference to the feeling of itchy wool on the skin.
The Middle English word chittern, to chitter or chatter, gave birth to the modern term the jitters, which is defined as extreme nervousness. This particular form of the word jitter didn’t enter English until 1925.
Whimwham (or wimwam) most likely came from the Old Norse term hvima, to let the eyes wander, or the related Norwegian word kvima, to flutter. In modern usage, whimwham means both a fanciful object & the jitters. The second meaning generally occurs within the phrase a case of the whimwhams.
Those of us who regularly experience the jitters, whimwhams, or willies might be labeled lily-livered, a term born in 1625 in the play Macbeth, by the ultimate coiner of words, William Shakespeare.
Then, of course, there are the heebie-jeebies. Many modern speakers of English assume that beneath the heebie-jeebies lurks anti-Semitism. This assumption is unfounded. The term heebie-jeebies was coined in 1923 by Bill De Beck, cartoonist of the comic strip “Barney Google,” and when it comes to that particular prejudice, De Beck’s work seems squeaky clean.
So folks, do all these drag-a-finger-up-the-spine words give you the heebie-jeebies, or would you rather leave a comment noting experiences you’ve had which inspire a raging case of the whimwhams?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Wordnik, The Word Detective, & Etymonline,
Boondocks came to English in 1910 from the Tagalog word bundok, meaning mountain. American soldiers (who were occupying the Philippines at the time), brought it home to America, though in the process, the meaning morphed from mountain to any remote & wild place. By 1964, we had shortened boondocks to boonies.
Hinterland (or hinterlands) showed up in English in 1890 from German, -land meaning, well, land, & hinter- meaning behind (as in hind, behind, & hindmost). Interestingly, as far back as the 1300s, hinder had made its way into Middle English. One of the hinder-related words we’ve lost over time is the word hinderling, meaning a person who has fallen from moral or social respectability,
Though stick (in the form of stician) has been a part of the language since folks spoke Old English, the boondocks meaning of the sticks didn’t show up until 1905.
Those Old English speakers also used the word wildnis, which has changed over the centuries to wilderness. It was initially an adjective meaning wildness & savageness, though along the way it took on a nounly mantle.
Another modern synonym is the idiom the middle of nowhere. I’ve been unsuccessful at finding when this idiom entered the language, but along the way I learned that nowhere had some siblings who didn’t last as long. Nowhat made a stab at existing in the 1520s & nowhen fought for its life unsuccessfully in 1764.
As a kid I was flummoxed at the term desert island because it seemed to me it always meant something closer to deserted island. Mystery solved: the word desert entered English from French in the early 1200s, meaning wasteland or wilderness. It wasn’t until a century later that desert started meaning treeless, waterless region, which, arguably, could also be a wasteland, or the sticks, or the boondocks, or…
What other terms do you know that refer to distant, remote places? Or might you have something to say about all this? I hope you’ll leave a comment.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Merriam Webster, Wordnik & Etymonline,
Most of us do it every day, but do we think about the word? Here's a gander at the verb chew.
Not surprisingly, our modern word chew started out meaning to bite, gnaw or chew when it made its way from one of the Germanic languages into Old English, where it was spelled ceowan.
Both chow (1500s) & chaw (1520) are variants of the word chew. It’s also very likely that jaw (1300s), jowl (1570) and cheek (825) were born of that Old English word ceowan.
In other chew-related news, the Proto-Indo-European word mendh- which became the Latin word mandele, meaning to chew, gave birth to mandible, munch, mastic, masticate, mustache, paper maché & mange (a tiny bit of mildly disturbing imagination will help connect those dots).
Ruminate entered English in the 1530s, from Latin, meaning to chew the cud or turn over in the mind.
Champ, which came to English in 1905, meaning to chew noisily, is probably onomatopoeic in origin.
English is rife with chew-inspired idioms, including:
Chew someone out
Chew the fat
Chew something over
Chew something up
Bite off more than one can chew
Chew away at something
Chew one’s cud
Chew one’s tobacco
Mad enough to chew nails (in my neighborhood, we spat nails in lieu of chewing them)
I hope this post has given you something on which to chew. If so, please let me know what you’re thinking in the comment section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Free Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, & Etymonline,
We walk on them all the time, but do we ever take the time to think of their etymologies?
The word carpet made its way into English in the 1200s, meaning coarse cloth, tablecloth or bedspread. It entered English from the Old French word carpite, which referred to heavy, decorated cloth. This came from the Medieval Latin word carpite, which began with the word carpere, to card or to pluck. This most likely had to do with the fact that wool, cotton, and other weaving materials required some sort of plucking before they could be wrassled into threads or yarn, and then woven into cloth.
It wasn’t until the 1400s that carpets clearly belonged on floors.
Oddly, rugs didn’t start on the floor either. The word rug entered English in the 1550s, from Norwegian rugga, meaning coarse fabric or coverlet to drape over furniture. It took until the 1800s for rugs to land soundly on the floor.
Some rug & carpet tidbits:
Though nobody’s sure when the term roll out the red carpetbecame popular, the custom of rolling out a red carpet to celebrate royalty or popularity appears to have begun in ancient Greek myth when Clytaemnestra rolled one out for Agamemnon.
1769 to be snug as a bug in a rug
1823 to be called on the carpet
1940 theatre slang labeled a toupee a rug
1942 to cut a rug
1953 to sweep something under the carpet
1968 the word rugrat was born
So, good followers, what rug- or carpet-related thoughts do you have?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Wordnik & Etymonline,
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.