Here’s a second installment of words we English speakers have mostly lost (the first installment can be found here). I think at least some of them deserve a rebirth.
A quodlibet was initially a topic up for philosophical discussion, though in time, the meaning morphed to mean a medley of well-known tunes. Either meaning works just fine for the word’s Latin source, which translates to what pleases you. I find myself envisioning a group of philosophers meeting at the pub & saying to the dude with the fiddle, “Play us a quodlibet while we discuss our quodlibet!”
An inanimate item that is responsible for a person’s death is called a deodand. Back in the day, English law required the owner of the murderous object pay the grieving family in the amount of the value of the object. Owners of murderous objects didn't complain much when the object was a length of rope, a pitchfork, a plough — but as soon as the industrial revolution kicked in & these expenses bumped up to the cost of a carpet-making loom, a steam engine, a train (& the payments had to be made by corporations that just might have had the ear of Parliament members), the law was abandoned.
Arfanarf is Cockney slang for half-and-half, but it does not refer to a dairy product. The term was used in the late 1800s & early 1900s to order up a drink that was half porter & half ale, or in some regions, a mixture of beer & whisky. Nothing like a little arfanarf to get the conversation flowing, eh?
To be erumpent is to burst out of something. It’s related to interrupt, erupt & abrupt. It’s a rarely sighted word unless you happen to be a mycologist (a studier of mushrooms) — given the habits of mushrooms, mycologists use the term erumpent frequently & with gusto.
An embuggerance is a niggling or irritating barrier encountered when trying to solve a problem. The term was born in the British military some time around 1950. Though bugger in modern usage is sexual in nature, both terms come from a much older expression, “to bugger one about” -- to irritate one.
So, do you have any quodlibets regarding all this, or do you find all this wordmongering to be an embuggerance? Please let me know in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Dictionary of Slang & Euphemism, Merriam Webster, Collins Dictionary, WorldWideWords, Vectorstock.com, & Wordnik,
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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