Archive for the ‘language’ Category

To woodcock (verb)

Posted: September 30, 2017 in language, Life, Music
Tags: , , , , ,

Earlier this week Ian (bf) and I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in concert at Nottingham Ice Arena. Cave has long been one of my favourite songwriters, and it was an awesome concert.

But before it began we had a lengthy wait in our seats. At one point, Ian discreetly drew my attention to a guy sitting in the next row, reading his kindle while he waited.

‘Look,’ Ian said. ‘He’s woodcocking.’

This is a relatively common occurrence in our lives. Ian is always astonished when he finds someone not of my clan displaying the same behaviours he finds so particular to my sisters and I. I believe he shares his observations with my sister’s husband. Possibly they titter.

To woodcock now has at least four distinct meanings, according to Ian.

Woodcock (verb):

  1. to use every pot and pan in the kitchen in the preparation of one meal.
  2. to take any opportunity to go for a wee, whether you want one or not.
  3. to blink when your photograph is taken.
  4. to carry a book wherever you go, and fit in a quick read at any and every opportunity.

I suppose it’s oddly pleasing to be made into a verb, however irreverent the intention. But it’s also strange to find that behaviours you take for granted as absolutely normal can seem less so to other people.

I kind of hope woodcocking one day makes its way into your dictionary.

emma in robot mask

I have learned to mitigate for woodcocking (3) tendencies by wearing a mask.

I have always been attracted to odd or funny or unusual words. I love that the English language has such a wealth of them.* As I child I would sometimes sit and read the dictionary – finding strange words and trying to work them into everyday speech (or the many unfinished stories I always had on the go).

gormenghast notes

My very old copy of Gormenghast, with notes. The same page also contains: raddled (either twisted or reddened) and pranked (adorned, shown off)

Words I remember learning in that way:

Grimalkin: an old witch.
Madder: a natural red dye.
Glabrous: smooth skinned.

I first read Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy at 15, and for many years adored it (although I have to say I prefer my prose a lot less fancy these days). But it was full of many words I didn’t understand. I would mark them in the text. Then when I reached a suitable break I would get out the dictionary, look up all the recent words, and write the meanings in to the margins – in case i forgot again by the time I re-read the book (you will recall from previous posts that although I love books, I am not precious about them).

Words I remember learning from Gormenghast:

Gibbous: the moon when it is more than half, but less than full.
Fastidious: fussy.
Osseous: made of bone.

For a time I became particularly intrigued by unusual names, and kept a small notebook in which I jotted down odd names that I came across.

My favourite company names, learnt whilst working as a temp for a variety of local, mostly mining-related businesses:

Norbert Dentressangle; a haulier, but the name always reminds me of Murun Buchstansangur, which I used to enjoy as a child, and – having now looked it up after *cough* years – is even odder than I remember.
Angst Pfister; they’re real, honest. And safe for work!

I also made up reams of names. Sometimes I would think up a character to go with the name. Sometimes they made it as far as (an unfinished) story.

Tragically I can no longer find the notebook full of my best names. But these are a few from a comic-adventure boarding school story I still vaguely intend to finish one day:

Boscoe Roast; a schoolboy and a bully.
Colt Saltarello; a handsome, laconic Texan, and dancing intructor.
Frances Botticelli-Irvingspoon; from a wealthy but dissolute family, she knows all manner of interesting things that a young girl probably shouldn’t, and is excellent at poker.

And finally, three very common words which for some reason when I see written down I often mispronounce/misapprehend to myself:

misled: (myzelled) I went out for a misle; now I’m thoroughly misled.
mishap: (mish-ap) I have no idea what that could mean. Perhaps it’s similar to a mashup?
doing: I want to pronounce it to rhyme with boing.

Anyone got a favourite word they’d like to share?

* German also has a great number of peculiar words, I later learnt. My favourite is ausgeflippt: freaked out.