What Planet is This?

19 Aug 2005

Lo! New Words

At the edge of the English language are a number of words that ought to be used more often, but remain extremely rare. Here are seven that are scarce or unknown on the web currently:

Sauropodlet, a hatchling of a large herbivorous dinosaur. This is the first of two words that've been featured in BBC nature documentaries, this one being from the acclaimed series Walking with Dinosaurs. Inamidst the scantling hits for it on Google at the moment is one lady who says that "pretty much nothing cheers me up as fast as the word 'sauropodlet'." Obviously, I concur. Javier Candeira noted today that Richard Feynman and Raymond Quéneau shared a love for the word antepenultimate, but sauropodlet is surely better. Googlecount? Twenty-five.

Jumpling, a fledgling guillemot or puffin. Guillemots and puffins often nest on high ledges in cliff faces, so the chicks have to jump to leave the nest. This word was used by Simon King on the BBC's Springwatch programme, whilst he was observing jumplings on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumbria. Most of the results for this on Google are typos for "jumping". I can only find three instances of the word being used in its ornithological sense, one of which says that growing guillemot chicks "are sometimes known as jumplings because at about 20 days, although they still can't fly, they jump from their cliff ledge at dusk down to the sea." Googlecount? Three hundred and forty-nine (but three really).

Sucfleur, supposedly Cajun-French for hummingbird. Bill Bryson mentions this word on p.105 of Mother Tongue, saying of the Acadians that "moving to the isolated bayous of southern Louisiana, they continued to speak French but were cut off from their linguistic homeland and thus forced to develop their own vocabulary to a large extent. Often it is more colourful and expressive than the parent tongue. The Cajun for hummingbird, sucfleur ('flower-sucker'), is clearly an improvement on the French oiseaumouche." Yes, it's a French word really, but English has imported plenty of words from French over the years, and this one would make a welcome addition. Googlecount? Zero.

Gigaioggie, whose meaning is unknown [update: it's the rare word jiggy-joggy in Italian orthography]. Probably gigajoggie or gigajoggy in modern spelling. John Florio, a friend of Shakespeare, uses it in his 1611 book Queen Anna's New World of Words, which is an Italian-English dictionary. It appears on p.198 under Florio's definition for Fríttfrítt (an equally rare word), which he says is "as we say cricket a wicket, or gigaioggie." The 1598 edition contains the second ever mention of the game of cricket in the English language, but omitting the word "gigaioggie", which only came in the 1611 version. The phrase "cricket-a-wicket" is helpful as it points to the etymology of cricket being "creag", changed to rhyme with wicket. The OED records the word gigaioggie in its quotations for cricket-a-wicket, but not as a headword, so it may be Italian. Googlecount? Zero.

Megacryometeor, a large mysterious hailstone. The word was mentioned just the other day in an NBC article (via Fortean Times) about an ice fall in Fontana, CA, and it has a Wikipedia article too—but there are relatively few results for it on Google. They have to weigh at least 10kg and be proven to be natural, by being of the same composition as the local rainfall. They often appear from cloudless skies. The word was coined in 2002 by Jesús Martínez-Frías and David Travis, who research the phenomenon. Googlecount? Three hundred and six.

Thatchworm, a name. This one started on the conlang mailing list when John Cowan called Steg Belsky roof-wyrm, an Ander-Saxon interpretation of his email username, draqonfayir. Andrew Smith suggested that it should've been thaec-wyrm, and John said that thatchworm is a cool word. Since there aren't many thatched houses around, this is about as useful a word as it is a name. The Ander-Saxon of William Barnes, on the other hand, has given us twysided (ambiguous, GC1), nipperlings (forceps, GC5), and welkinfire (meteor, GC5), which have to be much admired. Thatchworm is a fair addition. Googlecount? Four.

Cholarchy, the antonym of hierarchy. It was coined by Arthur Koestler, and only had one mention on Google by "Rina M." before Sean McGrath found it and decided to proselytise it. Really the antonym is heterarchy, as Panos Konstantinidis noted, but I'm sure the English language can take another synonym. Googlecount? Seven.

The title of this piece is based on the names of two of Charles Fort's books, Lo! and New Lands. Charles Fort was a very remarkable person, and had a brilliant wit as demonstrated by the following quote from Damon Knight's introduction to the Dover Edition of The Complete Works of Charles Fort: "In 1931, when Tiffany Thayer and Aaron Sussman founded the Fortean Society, Fort had to be tricked by mendacious telegrams into attending the celebratory banquet. He said he would not join the organization himself, 'any more than I'd be an Elk.'"

Cite: Palmer, S.B. (2005). "Lo! New Words", in: What Planet is This?
Archival URI: http://inamidst.com/notes/newwords


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I wonder if Florio is saying that "frittfritt" (which looks extremely weird for Italian) is just repetitive bibble-babble, like "cricket-a-wicket" or "jigajoggy", and that none of them have any real meaning. Is there any real evidence that "to play cricket-a-wicket" (under "fare" in folio 180, URL has 195) actually refers to cricket?

In any case, you are pointing to the wrong folio for 1598; the URL should contain 162 rather than 163.

You've gotten the story of "thatchworm" slightly wrong: Steg *thought* I was talking about his email address, but actually I was talking about his *name*: Stegosaurus Belsky. (His real name is Steven, I believe.)

John Cowan, Fri Aug 19 16:11:58 2005

I should perhaps mention that Bill Bryson's books on language average about one error of fact per page. I would give mine away, but I hate to pollute any future readers' minds.

John Cowan, Wed Aug 31 17:21:12 2005


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