Thursday 11 June 2009

Lost Words

Affender - to share a meal with an unexpected visitor.
Aranteler - to sweep away spiders' webs.
Carioler - to cry out while giving birth.
Carquet - a secret place between breast and corset.
River - to strip off leaves by running one's hand along a branch.
These are just a few of the useful words that were not admitted to the offical dictionary of the French language. They're quoted in Graham Robb's excellent book The Discovery Of France, which I'm finding something of a page-turner (though, as the comedian Michael McIntyre points out, 'That is the very least I require of a book.' If the pages didn't turn, you'd be well within your rights to return it to the shop.) They are useful words indeed (though I imagine Carquet would have little currency in these uncorseted times), but they describe things for which even English - that great word hoard which, we are told, now tots up to a million words (really?) - also has no words. There are many things for which English has no words - Douglas Adams came up with a whole bookful of them, The Meaning Of Liff, and gave them names. Any more spring to mind? Anything which gets you thinking, why isn't there a word for that? And if there was, what would the word be? Come to that, any ideas for English words to cover any of the above lost French meanings? How about swebbing for the second? The first, in English, would probably be covered by some variant of suffering...


  1. The recent Sunderland manager was called Ricky Sbragia, widely pronounced 'Spadger', and I thought Spadger would be a great word for something. Would work for the corset one. Unfortunately it seems it already has a rude colloquial meaning (google it if you want to know).

    The Meaning of Liff of course uses real place names. Some of those words are in my everyday lexicon, such as Great Wakering and glenties.

    I'd think we need a word - let's say, 'Chumleigh' - for something someone says which instantly changes your whole perception of them, but which also suddenly makes sense of them.

    As in: "She won't return my calls, it's so unreasonable," he said. "And there was no need to get the police involved and put a restraining order on me," he added, dropping a large Chumleigh.

    "I work full-time for my local church" was a good Chumleigh here.

  2. Suggestions for English words equivalent to 1. and 3. on your list.

    Hospitality to strangers is more or less dead so I think 'affender' needs to be defined more widely as sharing any of your property with an unexpected stranger. And we have a word for this: burglary.

    Instead of 'carioler' I would use 'epiduralate' as in 'Owww - forget natural childbirth, just give me the f-ing drugs!', she epiduralated.

  3. brit - for some reason (that I dont know why), I refer to sparrows as 'little spadgers'

    Nige, should you have any further interest in this stuff, may I recommend a book called'The Meaning of Tingo'


    ..which is a nice little collection words from around the world that are like 'The Meaning of Liff' only real, and often equally as amusing.

    My new word I would like to see becoming accepted is 'glibbery' meaning gelatanous, yet slippery at the same time.

    ie 'That Gordon Brown, he's a right glibbery git'

  4. Catching a thumb in the car door... umbident.

    Weather not as forecast...showerror.

    The Geordie's word for a horse...gallower.

    To be outwitted by a bee...bumbledone.

    To not cry out during giving birth...umbhush.

    A secret place twixt bra and stays...Middlesex.

    Eighty million quid...Ronaldgo

    Sorry for the last one, a bit of a Sun headliner.

  5. I do like "river," for pulling leaves off a branch. Done it a few times and somehow "pollarding" is overkill for the concept.

    My high school boyfriend insisted "disastrophe" was a word because his dad used it routinely. I rather like that. My mother also coined one after nearly being crushed by an ancient driver in his ancient sedan: "Watch where you're going, you *Old Fargie*!" she yelled. I do kinda like that mergery. Mergery, now there's a word, brings to mind my better half here beside me reading "Little Green Men" by Christopher Buckley as I type this. And I...I must get back to work. Or Blehrk.

  6. to maffle - to commit an act of clumsiness or incompetence
    to fankle - to entangle, to confuse

    And both have the advantage of being real mwords from my childhood playground.

  7. From my Somerset childhood I recall the delightfully expressive 'shriggle', meaning to remove peas from their pods. This doesn't get a single Google hit so must be on the way to becoming obsolete, I fear. Also 'shrammed' meaning numbed or shrivelled with cold ("She were right shrammed in thik dress") and the lovely 'scobberlotch', meaning to loaf or idle while apparently doing something purposeful. The latter could surely be due for a revival, what with all the e-scobberlotching that goes on: good name for a blog maybe.

  8. Thank you one and all - many fine words there crying out for adoption and/or revival. Keep em coming!

  9. An invented one: that low-level grousing that goes on as, for example, colleagues have a drink together. Muttercups.

  10. Something I know no English word for is the feeling I get watching the sun go down. (From observing the behaviour of other creatures, I infer at least some other humans, dogs and birds feel the same.) There are elements of awe, melancholy maybe - but also (almost) gratitude, contrast of scale but also the feeling of being touched by something a brain evolved from marmosets can neither understand nor describe. (Or communicate - obviously).

    So - what is the word?

    A word I miss from my childhood in Manchester is 'powfagged' - the kind of whole-person tiredness at the end of a long drawn-out task that is physically and mentally taxing or frustrating but with little compensating reward at the end of it. My old mum would come home, drop two heavy shopping bags on the floor, flop in a chair and say "Eee - ah'm proper powfagged. Sumdy put kettle on."

    Pete B

  11. This is the only instance I could come up with Googling for the word "shriggle". I'm translating Leonard Cline's forgotten novel GOD HEAD in Finnish, and he uses "shriggle" in a sentence, but with him it means someone turning into something else entirely ("she shriggled up into a wry scared harpy"), but there might be a connection with the Somerset meaning and "peeling".