CLOSE
Original image

Absurd Entries in the OED

Original image

Ammon Shea spent a year working his way through the Oxford English Dictionary. The result is his book Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. But in the run-up to his book's publication, Shea shared many of his most bizarre finds in an Oxford University Press blog. Here's an intro:

Absurd Entries is the name that I gave to a certain class of definition that I would come across every so often when reading the OED. They are rarer than the mistakes, and considerably more fun to read. These are the extremely rare moments when the OED does something that is so inexplicable that you have to close the book and check the cover to make sure that it is indeed the same book that you thought. I have decided, without giving too much thought to the matter, to divide them into two separate categories: 'Blatant Disregard for the Reader's Level of Education' and 'What Were They Thinking?'

In the category of Blatant Disregard, the past editors of the OED had seemingly come to the conclusion that since they sat around all day reading about words, accruing a monstrous knowledge of vocabulary, their readers must have done the same, and therefore it was not necessary to talk down to anyone with the definition. For instance trondhjemite is defined as 'Any leucocratic tonalite, esp. one in which the plagioclase is oligoclase'. I have my doubts as to whether anyone has ever thought to themselves 'I wonder what trondhjemite means?' But if someone did, and went to look it up in the OED, it seems unlikely that this definition would clear things up much.

In a similar vein, self-feeling is defined as 'used to render coenaethesis', and occupatio is simply 'preterition'. (I should add that in the online version both coenaethesis and preterition are linked to definitions, which feels a bit like cheating) The word syllogism has a fairly simple and informative definition, and the OED even thoughtfully provides an example of a syllogism at the end of it. Which is written entirely in Latin. Although for sheer incomprehensibility, I do not think that I have seen many entries that can beat the masterful one that was created for the curious word disghibelline - 'To distinguish, as a Guelph from a Ghibelline.'

Read more of Shea's introductory blog entry, and be sure to consult an excerpt from Reading the OED, Ammon's favorite words, hardcore dictionaries, and related entries by Ammon Shea.

See also: _floss contributor A.J. Jacobs, who read the Encyclopaedia Britannica and chronicled his experiences in The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla
arrow
Words
35 Words for Hiccups from Around the World
Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla

Hiccup is a perfect specimen of onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like the noise it represents: It echoes that sudden breath (hick-) and spasm (-up) of the diaphragm when, say, we’ve gobbled down food too quickly. But English is far from unique here. If we listen across the globe, we’ll hear all sorts of gasping h’s and gulping k’s, so much so that it almost seems like there’s a universal word for hiccup. Except there are some surprising, er, hiccups along the way. Get that spoonful of sugar, salt, or peanut butter ready, for here are 35 hiccup words in other languages.

1., 2., 3., 4., AND 5. DANISH, NORWEGIAN, SWEDISH, ICELANDIC, AND FINNISH

The English word hiccup (later spelled hiccough) is first recorded in 1580, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. A few decades earlier, English was using the word hicket. This word is a near mirror of the word in Scandinavian languages. Danish and Norwegian have hikke. The Swedish hicka is essentially the same. Up in Iceland, it’s hiksti. And over in Finland—neighbor in geography, though not tongue—it’s hikka.

6. FRENCH

If the French have had too much wine, they might hoquet. The -et, a diminutive ending found in English words like gullet, likely influenced the earlier English hicket.

7. SPANISH

In Spain, you get a bad case of the hipos.

8. AND 9. PORTUGUESE AND LATIN

You’d expect Spanish’s neighbor and Romance-language cousin, Portuguese, to have a nearly identical way of hiccuping, right? Think again. In Portugal, a hiccup is called a soluço, which may sound more like a sneeze to some ears. Soluço appears to derive from a Latin word for the bodily function: singultus, whose g brings back the hiccup’s characteristic gulp.

10. AND 11. ITALIAN AND ROMANIAN

Latin’s singultus also coughs up hiccup in Italian, singhiozzo—proving, yet again, that everything is more fun to say in Italian. Nearby in Romania, it’s sughiț, with that final ț pronounced like the ts in fits.

12. AND 13. WELSH AND IRISH

The Welsh have ig and the Irish snag, which happens to look like that metaphorical hiccup in English, or a “minor difficulty or setback.”

14. AND 15. DUTCH AND GERMAN

Dutch has the straightforward sound of hik, but German has to be different with Schluckauf, literally a “swallow up.” German, though, also has the onomatopoeic Hecker (noun) and hicksen (verb) for these belly bumps.

16., 17., 18., 19., AND 20. RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN, POLISH, CZECH, AND BULGARIAN

Like the Scandinavian languages, Slavic hiccupingsounds like hiccuping, just more Slavic-y. Russia gets an attack of the ikotas (икота), Ukraine the hykavkas (гикавка), Polish the czkawkas, Czech the škytavkas, and Bulgarian the khulstane’s (хълцане), to let out a few examples from this language family.

21. ALBANIAN

Hiccuping in Albanian, which boasts its own branch in the Indo-European languages, is a bit softer, but it does still feature something of a hiccupy bounce: lemzë (pronounced like lemzuh).

22. GREEK

Before we leave Europe, the diaphragm reflex in Greece can take the form of λόξιγκας, which roughly transliterates to loxigkas.

23. ARABIC

You try to get rid of your حازوقة (hazuqa) or فُواق (fuwaq) in Arabic ...

24. TURKISH

… or hıçkırık (which sounds like hichkerek) in Turkish ...

25. SWAHILI

…or kwikwi around parts of southeastern Africa.

26. YORUBA

Saying you have the hiccups in Yoruba, spoken widely in Western Africa, might actually give you the hiccups: òsúkèsúkèsúkè.

27. ZULU

In South Africa, where the Zulu language is prominent, you might call a hiccup an ingwici—with the letter c representing a click sound.

28. CHINESE

The Mandarin word for hiccup gets right to the back of the throat: , , voiced with a rising tone. The left part of the character, which looks like a squished box, is 口 (kǒu), meaning “mouth.”

29. JAPANESE

Like English, the Japanese for hiccup features a hard k-sound smack dab in the middle of the word: shakkuri (or しゃっくり in kana).

30. KOREAN

The Korean for hiccup is a three-part affair: 딸꾹질, roughly tal-kuk-jil.

31. VIETNAMESE

Slurp down your pho too fast? The basic word for hiccup in Vietnamese is nấc.

32. AND 33. HINDI AND BENGALI

Hundreds of millions of speakers of Hindi in India say हिचकी (hichakee, pronounced a bit like hitch-key). The word is similar in other closely related Indian languages in the region, such as Bengali হিক্কা(hikka).

34. BAHASA INDONESIAN

You might say “Excuse me” throughout Indonesia for your kecegukan, the word for hiccup in Bahasa Indonesian, the Malay-based official language and lingua franca of Indonesia.

35. OLD ENGLISH

A word Old English had for hiccup is ælfsogoða, literally a kind of “elves’ heartburn.” Apparently, Anglo-Saxons believed hiccups were caused by, yep, elves. It turns out that it isn’t just cures for the hiccups that are old wives’ tales.

BONUS: KLINGON

The fictional language of Star Trek’s Klingon is a notoriously guttural language. Most of the words we’ve seen for hiccup across the globe indeed feature such back-of-the-throat g’s and k’s. Yet the Klingon word for hiccup is bur. Let’s chalk that up to biological differences: Klingons are extraterrestrial beings, after all.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Words
10 Obscure Bride-Related Words to Use During Wedding Season
Original image
iStock

These obscure bride-related words make you sound smart as you catch or dodge the bouquet.

1. BRIDELOPE

No relation to the jackalope, this is, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “The oldest known Teutonic name for ‘Wedding’.” Bridelope can also mean the bridal run, in which the bride proceeds to her new home, with or without tin cans attached to the car.

2. EPITHALAMIUM

This is a poem written specifically for a bride and groom, wishing them the best. The word epithalamium is derived from Latin and has a rare variation used in an 1802 letter by Thomas Twining: “He will epithalamise you in person, I suppose.”

3. WEDDINGER

Going to a wedding? Then you’re a weddinger. This term can also refer to everyone in the wedding, including the bride and groom. A use in George Vaughan Sampson’s 1802 book Statistical Survey of the County of Londonderry is characteristic: “After a few days' carousal among the groom's friends, the weddingers move towards the bride's country.”

4. MOTHER'S PRIDE

The silly world of Cockney rhyming slang is always ready with a synonym: mother’s pride is a nice one for bride.

5. AND 6. TOWEL SHOWER AND GREENBACK SHOWER

Towel shower is a regional variation of bridal shower found in the Northern U.S. The Dictionary of American Regional English records an example from back in 1900: “On Monday a ‘towel shower’ was given ... About 40 ladies were present, each bringing a dainty towel, hemstitched or embroidered ... [A]t the close of the afternoon all surrounded the bride and showered them upon her.” On the other hand, a greenback shower involves giving the bride money.

7. AND 8. MORGANATIC AND LEFT-HANDED

A morganatic marriage is a predecessor of today’s prenups: The union involves a member of the nobility and a common person, with the understanding that the commoner will never inherit any of that sweet royal cash. A left-handed marriage means the same, apparently because the left hand was offered ceremoniously in such unions.

9. CALLITHUMPIAN

This term has several meanings, and they’re all boisterous and exuberant. Often, the word applies to merrymakers who are celebrating a noisy holiday such as New Year’s or July 4. But other times, a callithumpian parade is making a racket for a wedding—but not always in support. A description in an 1848 Bartlett book of Americanisms describes a strange scene: “Callithumpians ... On wedding nights the happy couple are sometimes saluted with this discord by those who choose to consider the marriage an improper one, instead of a serenade.”

10. BROOSE

Now here’s a strange Scottish custom which nonetheless must have been entertaining: Broose, since the 1700s, has referred to a horseback race (involving young fellas) from the site of the wedding to the happy couple’s home. The winner would obtain a colorful handkerchief for winning the broose. Sometimes the race is by foot.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios