Language and Linguistics Notebook

As I often prog for verbal flotsam, I thought that I should scribe some of the stuff I find; that my lucubrations be recorded.

Cool Words

Homer: Where's that... metal deeley... used to... dig... food?

The funny thing about "cool words" is that sometimes they describe concepts that you previously might not have imagined as being significant. For example:-

isobront /'i‧so‧bront/ n.
An imaginary line, or a line on a chart, marking the simultaneous development of a thunderstorm, as noted by observing the time when the thunder is heard at different places.

"Ullage" is handy, too. Resistentialism, "apodyopsis", and "hypnerotomachia" are just brilliant.

Another good site is Martha Barnette's Fun Words Archive. In there are such gems as:-

(Krih-PUS-kyew-lurr) Pertaining to twilight; dim, dusky.


Scandinavian? "Walking under the canopy of a sun dappled dingle" is a neat phrase!

ToDo: cote.

  Cote \Cote\ (k?t), n. [OE. cot, cote, AS. cot, cote, cottage; akin
     to D. & Icel. kot, G. koth, kot, kothe. Cf. Cot.]

And where did Peppermint Patty's "skungie" come from?


Nice derives from the Latin root nescius (ignorant), which comes from nescire (not to know). [...] In 14th century French and Middle English, it meant simpleminded, stupid, or foolish. During Chaucer's time, the meaning shifted to lascivious or wanton; you would never bring a "nice" girl home to meet mom and dad. [...] Prior to the 1930's, in fact, dictionaries deemed these definitions merely "colloquial," and hardly anybody said "Have a nice day" before the 1970's.

  Nice \Nice\, a. [Compar. Nicer; superl. Nicest.] [OE.,
     foolish, fr. OF. nice ignorant, fool, fr. L. nescius
     ignorant; ne not + scius knowing, scire to know. perhaps
     influenced by E. nesh delicate, soft. See No, and

Etymology of "O.K."


Dunno. On the other hand, "deer" is an interesting word since it evolved from the OE "deor", which meant animal. So, where did "animal" come from ([L., fr. anima breath, soul: cf. F. animal; Animate]), and how did "deor/deer" get restricted to the animal that we now call a deer? And what did people call deer before they used the old name for animal for deer? Are you following?

Very old PIEish words

Navigate, apple, brother...


From the Old English "stol," meaning "throne."


I could have chosen some other word, but "Miscellaneous" and I have something going on, or so it would seem.

Languages with clicks in them - like Ku!khaasi - are quite fun. Sadly, that language is extinct according to the ELR.

Sidenote: Hypenation Points

To get hyphenation points to work, I used the following CSS/HTML combination:-

.pronun { font-family: "Lucida Sans Unicode", Georgia, sans-serif; 
   font-size: 0.9em; }

<span class="pronun">/fen&#8231;'om&#8231;ik/</span>

Go and read The Trouble With EM 'n EN! cf. General Punctuation.

Changing Words

What happens when the meaning of a word changes, and we no longer have a suitable word to fulfil its function? e.g. threshold.

Coining Words

Some tale, some new pretense, he daily coined, 
To soothe his sister and delude her mind. --Dryden.

I've coined one really good word:-

phenomic /fen‧'om‧ik/ adj.
(Of a word) the quality of being pleasant to say, or of being memorable in some way. Especially a word which has been invented for this purpose.

and probably, inadvertantly, some others. Oh, actually, I take credit for being the first person that I know of to use the word "compenetrative" as an adverb: "everything is imperceptibly and yet compenetratively connected". I deserve a medal for that.

Oh, and I invented the term "thunderbug", although apparently, there's already a band called thunderbug. I have no idea what they sound like, so I won't comment.

My favourite word invented by someone else is Douglas Adams "floopy".


My favourite invented word is "Schkurdle"; a noun used as a common substitution for when you want to say something but can't quite think of it, as in "pass me the Schkurdle".

One of my fondest memories of the word is when I used it in a German test once. It drove my German teacher nuts and apparently he spent hours looking it up. His conclusion was that he thought that it was Swiss. I found that conclusion very amusing, as you can probably imagine.

How Words Get Coined

Incompetence and boredom are the main factors. Here's an example. We needed to log a channel, and in doing so, had to infunktualize a new bot. We also had to name it.

05:36:40 <sbp> call him Fred
05:36:55 <AaronSw> fred has been taken too
05:37:01 <sbp> FredTheLogger
05:37:09 <sbp> ScribeyFred [...]
05:38:25 <AaronSw> .rot13 plex
05:38:26 <xena> cyrk [...]
05:38:35 <AaronSw> cyrk! [...]
05:39:54 <AaronSw> well, i like cyrk
05:40:39 <sbp> cyrke
05:40:43 <sbp> s/cyrke/cyrker/
05:40:45 <sbp> pronounced "Kirker" [...]
05:41:13 <AaronSw> .rot13 cyrker
05:41:13 <xena> plexre
05:41:42 <sbp> there you go [...]
05:43:16 <sbp> cyrker: with "c" as a velar plosive! [...]
05:47:49 <sbp> "c" before "a", "o", "u", or "y" always used to be pronounced 
as "k"... wonder when that stopped?


Before a, o, u, y, c is pronounced k. [in OE] - Orthography and Pronunciation

"funge" (funj) is a good syllable.

What makes a word? Searching with Google and noting the amount of results for a particular word can help to decide whether or not a word exists. Of course, this is an unscientific method, and the results should be taken cum grano salis.

As of 2002-03.

Invented Languages

And then there are invented languages... Quenya, Esperanto, etc.

Geirlyfr, © 2002 Sean B. Palmer. Verbatim copying of this document is permitted.