Square round

As I was growing up my mother would use a weird phrase to encourage us to tidy the house up. She would say (quite oblivious to the phrase's oxymoronic nature) to square round.

Unk words

1. Bunk - narrow bed, rubbish, play truant
2. Chunk - thick, solid piece
3. Clunk - dull sound
4. Dunk - dip into a drink
5. Funk - fear, avoid, coward
6. Flunk - fall below standard
7. Gunk - unplradant sticky, messy stuff
8. Hunk - large piece of something, handsome dude
9. Junk - old or discarded material
10. Punk - aggressive form of rock
(Prompted by nothing at all really)


Fat bread

At home we always had a fry up or mixed grill on Saturdays. Our version included egg, beans, bacon, sausage, black pudding and  - wait for it - what my mother called fried bread and what my father called fat bread. In my head fried bread is the hard version also known as fried toast and fat bread is the soft version, dipped in the bacon fat only for a few moments. That distinction did not really exist in my parents minds it was just that dad used this phrase that I have not been able to locate anywhere on the Internet in this connection.


My wife made some dumplings for a casserole the other day not a regular treat. My dad often made the dumplings for stew at home. He always called them doughboys.
Doughboys are boiled or possibly steamed or deep-fried dumplings.
The word can be used as a nickname for soldiers or other things.

Sheath or sheaf

I am really enjoying Bart van Es's prize winning book The cut our girl and have almost finished it. I was surprised, however, to find on page 209 what appears to be a mistake.
Half way down the page he begins anew paragraph

On the desk in my hotel room lies a second sheath of papers.

Surely that should be

On the desk in my hotel room lies a second sheaf of papers.

Professor Paul Brians of Wahington State uis with meon this. (If you take your knife out of its sheath (case) you can use it to cut a sheaf (bundle) of wheat to serve as a centerpiece.) It is apparently a common error and yet this is written by a Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and appears in a Penguin paperback.
Perhaps it is simply that the papers were in a sheath.


10 more Portmanteau words

  1. Internet (international/network)
  2. Malware (malicious/software): Computer programs that are designed to damage or disable computer systems
  3. Meld (melt/weld): Blend/combine
  4. Modem (modulation/demodulation): An electronic device that makes possible the transmission of data to or from a computer via telephone or other communication lines
  5. Motel (motor/hotel): Overnight accommodation designed for motorists
  6. Motorcade (motor/cavalcade): A procession of motor vehicles
  7. Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge): An inclusive term that is used to describe both Oxford and Cambridge universities
  8. Smog (smoke + fog): A form of air pollution that has the qualities of both smoke and fog
  9. Spork (spoon/fork): A hybrid form of cutlery
  10. Workaholic (work/alcoholic): An individual who works excessive hours. Cf chocoholic (chocolate + alcoholic): Someone who eats excessive amounts of chocolate

10 Portmanteau words

A portmanteau is literally a bag for carrying (porter) a coat (manteau). The term was first used by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:
“Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau - there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Sometimes we get so used to these words we no longer see them as blends (eg breathalyser - breath and analyser)

  1. Bionic (biology/electronic): Artificial body parts that have been enhanced by technology
  2. Bodacious (bold/audacious): Insolent or unrestrained, extraordinary or impressively large
  3. Chortle (chuckle/snort): Laugh in a breathy, gleeful way.
  4. Cyborg (cybernetic/organism): A human or fictional entity whose physiological functioning is enhanced by mechanical elements.
  5. Dumbfound (dumb/confound): Greatly astonish or amaze.
  6. Edutainment (education/entertainment): Games or other forms of entertainment that have an educational aspect
  7. Electrocution (electricity/execution): Death by electricity
  8. Flare (flame/glare): A sudden brief burst of bright flame or light
  9. Ginormous (giant/enormous): Large, huge. glamping (glamour/camping): Luxury camping
  10. Glitz (glamour/Ritz): Extravagant yet superficial


10 Legal doublets

Many standardised phrases are used in English legalise. They consist of two (sometimes more) words that are near synonyms. The origin of the doubling - and sometimes even tripling - often lies in the transition from use of one language for legal purposes to use of another for the same purposes, (eg Germanic([Anglo-]Saxon or Old English) to Romance Latin or Law French or, within the Romance subfamily, from Latin to French). To ensure understanding, words of Germanic origin were often paired with words having equivalent or near-equivalent meanings in Latin (reflecting the interactions between Germanic and Roman law following the decline of the Roman Empire or later, Law French (reflecting the influence of the Norman Conquest), and words of Latin origin were often paired with their Law French cognates or outright descendants.

1. Aid and abet
2. All and sundry
3. Care and attention
4. Cease and desist
5. Fit and proper
6. Goods and chattels
7. Have and hold
8. Let or hindrance
9. Null and void
10. Will and testament


10 words or phrases in Dickens' Christmas Carol

1. Bedight - Adorned (and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.)
2. Norfolk Biffins - Red apples ( there were Norfolk Biffins, squat and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons,)
3. Smoking Bishop - form of mulled wine (we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!)
4. Total abstinence principle - a phrase commonly associated with teetotalling, ie never drinking any alcohol or "spirits" - it's a pun (He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards;)
5. Apoplectic opulence - apoplexy involves becoming unconscious or incapacitated. Here it is due to opulence, wealth or luxury (tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence)
6. Retire to Bedlam -  Bedlam was a well known lunatic asylum in London where you would spend your final years if you were insane (There's another fellow, my clerk with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas; I'll retire to Bedlam.)
7. Counting house - an office or building in which the accounts and money of a person or company were kept (eg on Christmas Eve - old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house)
8. Comforter -  a woollen scarf (eg Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle)
9. Forfeits - this is a parlour game where a piece of clothing or some personal belonging is put into a pile on the floor and can only be redeemed by doing something silly, as decided by a judge. (After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.)
10 The word scrooge originally meant to squeeze.


10 Words for Streams

1. Beck
2. Bourn or burn
3. Brook
4. Creek
5. Gill
6. Rill
7. Rivulet
8. Run or runnel
9. Stream
10. Watercourse
(The Welsh is Nant)