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Monday, July 14, 2008

Semantically Speaking

Lucky Knight that I am, working in the field of Signwriting, and historical art design, I continually come in contact with the English language in terms of its etymology, and I am constantly surprised and amused at the altered meaning of familiar words, and am always thrilled when some dark corner of history is illuminated, by a simple phrase or word we use in everyday conversation...

In a recent KMSA blog about Black armour... I noted they tested out the armour by firing crossbows at it, and the resulting dents the "Bullet Points" were much prized when trying to sell the item, as proof of its thickness. "Bullet Proof"

The other day a friend wrote me wondering what Grog was, and I was pleased not only to note that it was a potent mixture of (usually) rum and water used in the Navy rations... but where the term staggering around in a daze...comes from.

Drinking has always thrown up neat words for being drunk, Tiddly is a word used for being a little bit tipsy, and comes from the word Tiddlywink, an unlicensed public house, usually a small shed attached to a farm or cottage where beer or cider was brewed.

Other little gems you might want to impress your friends with over an ale later...(but don't
Pontificate as that is something only a Pope or Pontif could decree) are :

Sham, which in the 17th century, was a set of false (clean) sleeves fitted over a dirty shirt, or indeed a set of fancy sleeves fitted over a plain shirt.

A Bible was really a name for any small book in Scotland from 1300 to 1700.

To Croon was originally a word to describe the bellowing of a disquiet ox, which I'm sure Bing Crosby would be thrilled to hear.

Ouch, was a blow given by a Boars tusk, from the French for notch (oche).

Thrilling started out as piercingly cold.

Posthumous meant that you were born after your father died, and while we are on that subject, Fornicate means vaulted like an oven or furnace, an Archway, and came into use because Roman brothels were situated in subterranean vaulted parts of the building.

Manure has come to mean dung et al, but its original Tudor meaning was to "Cultivate the Mind ", and the term Smart-Money was not being clever, but really another word for a fine and designed to punish you by making you Smart, or in conning terms Sting.

I couldn't end this piece without a flourish....a bit of Panache, a suitably Knightly word, where a knight who was full of himself with pride would decorate his fighting helmet with a
panache, which was an upright colored plume or bunch of feathers, from the Latin penna, which is where we also get the word Pennant.

Sir Dayvd ( Words Worth ) of Oxfordshire


  1. It is Thrilling to put on Sham as I go to the Tiddlywink to get Groggy and open a Bible to find some Manure and Pontificate about Fornicating with Panache! Ouch! Great Blog Sir Dayvd, it was thoroughly Bullet Proof!

  2. I'm afraid a lot of my armour has bullet point entrance AND exit holes.

    Excellent lesson.

    Sir Bowie