Struwwelpeter

Pronounced: STROO-uhl-pea-tuhr, noun

Notes: Even if you don’t know the definition, I’m sure you can guess at the origin of this word


Yesterday’s word

The word gallinipper is “any of various insects that sting or bite, especially a large southern US mosquito”

First usage

Our word came into English in the late 1600s

Background / Comments

Our word is tagged “informal”, which is what makes it a bit of a cheat. I think we have these large mosquitos here, but I’ve never heard the term. The origin is unclear — but the second part “nipper” refers to something that nips.

gallinipper

Pronounced: GAL-uh-nip-er, noun

Notes: I’ve not run across this word… it may be a bit of a cheat


Yesterday’s word

The word Mrs. Grundy refers to “an extremely conventional or priggish person”

First usage

This word came into English in the early 1800s

Background / Comments

As I said, I think I’ve run across the word, but I didn’t know the meaning. It comes from a character (Mrs Grundy) in the play Speed the Plough, written in 1798 by Thomas Morton. Oddly, Mrs Grundy never appears on stage, but a character who does is constantly worrying about what Mrs Grundy would say. It must have been pretty popular to find its way into the language within 15 years.

Mrs Grundy

Pronounced: MISS-iz GRUND-ee, noun

Notes: I think I’ve run across this word, but I didn’t know the meaning


Yesterday’s word

The word epithalamion is “a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom”

First usage

Our word came into English in the late 1500s

Background / Comments

This word always reminds me of where I first encountered it: in the novel Busman’s Honeymoon, by Dorothy Sayers – her last novel featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. If you don’t know about the novels, they are detective stories set between World War I and World War II. She wrote only eleven novels featuring him, and four of these have to do with his relationship with Harriet Vane; he encounters her in Strong Poison, where she is on trial for murder. He falls in love with her, but she just wants to be left alone. They investigate a murder together in Have His Carcase, and she still refuses to marry him. In Gaudy Night, Harriet is involved in her college, which is suffering from very unpleasant anonymous letters; she eventually turns to Peter Wimsey for help. Along the way, she does a lot of soul-searching and agrees to marry Peter at the end of the novel. Busman’s Honeymoon continues just after that one and covers their marriage and the start of their married life. Anyway, our word is used as a chapter title, I believe, along with the similar word prothalamion. Our word is pretty much a transliteration of the Greek word epithal├ímios (nuptial).

epithalamion

Pronounced: ep-uh-thuh-LAY-mee-on (alt: ep-uh-thuh-LAT-mee-uhn), noun

Notes: I have run across this word in reading


Yesterday’s word

The word bovarism is “a romanticized, unrealistic view of oneself”

First usage

This word came into English in the first decade of the 1900s

Background / Comments

People with a well-read background might see bits of “Bovary” in the word, and that is correct; the word came the character Emma Bovary in the book Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, published in 1857. I have heard of the book, but I’ve not read it. I’m not sure that everyone doesn’t have, in some way, an unrealistic view of himself. In the Terry Brooks first work The Sword of Shannara, he elaborates on this idea that we all have a somewhat idealized vision of ourselves: he writes of our “carefully nurtured illusions” and that the reality of our existence does has “no soft dreams colored its view of life, no wishful fantasies clothed the harshness of its self-shaped choices, no self-conceived visions of hope softened the rawness of its judgments”. He mentioned “the vision of self” that always sustains us; the “limited image of the person” we have “always believed” our self to be. I had to look up those quotes, but I’ve not forgotten that interesting concept.

bovarism

Pronounced: BOH-vuh-riz-em, noun

Notes: Well-read people might know this one (I guess I’m not well-read enough; I didn’t)


Yesterday’s word

The word garboil means “confusion”

First usage

Our word came into English in the mid-1500s

Background / Comments

This is another word that comes from a poorer-quality vocabulary. I almost didn’t use it because it is tagged as “archaic”, which I don’t think is fair… there are LOTS of archaic words in English, but I don’t expect things that advertise as “vocabulary words” to include words that are archaic or obsolete. I do like the word, but they should have chosen something else. Our word comes from the Middle French word garbouil, and into Middle French from the Old Italian word garbuglio. Source material indicates that the trail ends there.

garboil

Pronounced: GAR-boil, noun

Notes: I almost didn’t use this word; it’s not one I would encourage people to learn (more tomorrow)


Yesterday’s word

The word schmatte refers to

  • a rag
  • an old, ragged article of clothing
  • Any garment
First usage

This word came into English in the 1970s

Background / Comments

Another word that came to us from the Yiddish word schmatte, which came from the Polish word szmata (rag). I assume that definition #1 is the original; since we call old clothes “rags”, that brought about definition #2. I assume definition #3 was just a broadening of the #2 definition. Likewise, I assume that the alternate spelling (shmatte) came about to more closely represent the pronunciation.

schmatte

Pronounced: SHMAH-tuh, noun

Notes: Also spelled shmatte; this is a word I could use in conversation


Yesterday’s word

The word zedonk is “the offspring of a zebra and a donkey”; it can also be called a zonkey, but that’s not as common as zedonk.

First usage

This word came into usage in the 1970s

Background / Comments

Looking at the definition, it’s quite obvious that the word is a combination of zebra and donkey (and less of a combination for zonkey). I didn’t pay attention at first to the fact that it was a noun, and I was thinking it sounded like some kind of verb, and I couldn’t imagine the meaning.

zedonk

Pronounced: ZEE-dongk (alt: ZEE-duhngk), noun

Notes: Just seeing the word, I had no idea; looking at the definition, I feel kind of stupid; maybe you know it or figured it out


Yesterday’s word

The word gnathonic means “sycophantic”

First usage

Our word appeared in English in the mid-1600s

Background / Comments

Our word comes from Gnatho, a sycophant in the comedy Eunuchus, written by Terence, a Roman playwright about 160 BC. (If you don’t know what a sycophant is, it is a self-serving, servile flatterer.) The name Gnatho comes from the Greek word gnathos (jaw). Incidentally, the character that Gnatho is flattering is called Thraso, from which we get our word thasoncial (boastful; vainglorious).

gnathonic

Pronounced: na-THON-ick, adj

Notes: You may know someone that this word fits


Yesterday’s word

The word cuittle means “to wheedle, cajole, or coax; to persuade”. As I noted yesterday, this word is mostly used in Scotland

First usage

Our word goes back to the mid-1500s

Background / Comments

The background of our word is not known; I suspect it is a couple of words put together, but I don’t know what they could be… possible someone familiar with the language of Scotland would be able to make a good guess.

cuittle

Pronounced: KYOO-tl, verb

Notes: This word is mostly used in Scotland


Yesterday’s word

The word potch, as a verb, means to slap or spank. Similarly, as a noun, it refers to a slap or a spanking

First usage

Our word came into English in the late 1800s

Background / Comments

As you may have guessed, our word is another one with a Yiddish origin; specifically from the Yiddish word patshn (to slap). It is considered to be of imitative origin, meaning that the word sounds like the thing it defines.