Logophile: a few offerings




Today I bring you half a dozen unusual words which are I feel fading away from our common vocabulary. Some you may know, others may well be foreign words. I like the look and sound of these, they sit neatly in my eye and head


To grow together, to form around or on something
To attract (such growth)

Origin: Latin – accrescere – grow


Slightly sour in taste
Rather sharp or caustic in speech
Origin: Latin  – acidus – sour

I like the sound and meaning of this next one, think I will begin using it

Beek :

To warm, to make comfortable
To bask in the warmth of the sun or fire
Origin: Old Scandinavian – beke – to expose body to warmth

This also appeals


Shelter, refuge, protection.

A  place or person providing shelter or refuge
Origin:Scots from Old English – boldness


In Living History today three of the group mentioned carrier(homing) pigeons on railway stations of our youth so this had to come in.


A pigeon fancier

Origin: Latin -columba –  dove and  Greek –philos – lover (isn’t that a great mixture)


Overlapped like roof tiles
Related to over lapping of the calyx of flower

Origin: Latin – imbric – roof tile

Hope you liked them, and if you knew them and use them do let me know.


To Curry Favour


My sister is forever asking why we say things the way we do. She is asking about our idioms and expressions. Partly because she misheard them(being very deaf) but also because they do not seem to make any sense to her when she examines them word for word.

I have a fondness for the familiar, I do not mind so very much clichés and proverbs. I confess to a liking for idioms and sayings. They serve a purpose, they are familiar and therefore oddly comforting at times. They serve as shorthand, hash tags, to universal life.

They also appeal to me because many of them break the rules of grammar and of sense. Tiny rebels against organized language. They can be nonsensical and – get away with it – what’s not to like?

What is an idiom?As this is a blog about words I give the Oxford Dictionary meaning of the word that pertains to the subject. There are other meanings.

Idiom: a form of expression, grammatical construction, phrase etc peculiar to a person or language: a phrase etc which is understood by speakers of a particular language despite its meaning not being predictable from that of the separate words.

Origin: Idios;  Greek,  idiousthai    make one’s own ( when applied to  a perculiar to self form of language),

In other words Idioms are not to be taken literally. The whole expression has very little to do with the individual words and we who grow up in the language accept this and just use the shape for the meaning until someone says why do we say that? Idioms though are difficult to understand for those coming to the language as newbies.

I am going in the next few months to explore some of our idioms and sayings. Many make no discernible sense, standing almost as a metaphor now, yet they did make sense once and have traveled along the path of changing vocabulary, spelling, mispronunciation and occupations until we end uttering them and knowing what they mean despite it all.

Or do we?

Some have a simple history and some travel more convoluted routes.

To curry favour:

 To seek to favour or ingratiate oneself (with a person) by flattery etc.

To seek to win (goodwill, friends etc) by flattery etc

We know what it means but how does it mean i.?

Nothing to do with Indian dishes. The horse minded amongst us will maybe consider horses, as grooming a horse is often referred to as‘currying’. So not the kitchen but the stable, but still where does the whole expression comes from.

Way back in 1310, what a long time ago! there was a French poem, satirical and popular for hundreds of years, oh if we could all write something with that longevity! The name of this work of art  Roman de Fauvel’.

Fauvel was a centaur. Centaurs were featured in Greek myths as strange hybrid creatures both man and horse.

Centaur: creature with head arms and torso of a man and the body and legs of a horse.
Origin: Greek,   kentauros referring to a people of Thessaly who were expert horsemen.


This Fauvel was cunning and an extremely dangerous beastie. In the satire he was representing hypocrisy and deceit. If you didn’t want the breathe knocked out of you,

you gentled him,
made nice to him
you curried Favual, so he wouldn’t turn nasty.

Mind, if he was deceitful and hypocritical I wouldn’t place any bets on it working out long term:)

Yeah, well, favour?

Mispronunciation, misspelling, mistranslated, mis whatever.

Origin: Old French:  estriller fauvel, to rub down, groom a chestnut horse

Fauvel:   French,   fallow coloured.

So there it is: a mixture of ancient Greek mythology, Old French vocabulary, a satire penned in 1310, a journey across the sea to these islands to be slightly mangled and changed over time to what we have now. What we understand it to mean is correct. Once long ago it also made sense.