I do like the letter O: alberta’s words

o is a versatile letter

The letter O is a wonderfully versatile letter. Apart from the look of it; so clean, so eternal it is from a child’s point of view so easy to pen:) To my mind, the friendliest looking of all the alphabet.

Think of all the sounds that originate with O
Pot and No
Do and Son

Four simple words and four different pronunciations. Short O in the first, a long O in the second.

A double OO in the third and even a short U in the fourth.

We can have the different O sounds in boat, toe, neon, riot and youth depending on which letters surround this neat looking letter.

How about meow and Mao or Noel.

Try doubling it – coot and foot, one becomes longer, the other shorter and more of a u sound, only one letter different in this case. How clever we are to even remember a half of the variations in English.

O stands in for ‘the descendant of’ in names such as O’Driscoll and for ‘of the clock’ in time keeping

That is not the end of O, it stands on it’s own to spell sounds.


With or without the ‘h’ dogged my poetry lessons as a child – modern poets are not keen.

Many O’s as in Ooooo can be excitement or praise of looks,  add a letter or so and it can be ouch or ow both pain of some kind.

And of course do let us forget how satisfying a plain unadorned O can be to a child or a doodler, a face, body part of rabbits, dogs and cats. How satisfying it is to fill it in with pen or pencil when bored. To add ears and tails.

Doodlers love the double O, it can be decorated with lashes, a pupil and voila we have eyes.In ancient Egypt (ancient in like 4,000 years ago!) the O was a hieroglyph for ‘the eye’. Semites took it and then Phoenicians diminished it to a small outline of the eye and hey presto our O was formed still meaning eye. Then it changed and became a letter.  I still make eyes out of mine:)

I do like the letter O:)


with a great deal of help from David Crystal and Michael Rosen

Yay for John Milton:)



Wouldn’t it marvellous to invent a word which was still in use 400 years later. I would like that very much. I would indeed. Just one word which rang out through he ages and spawned many others. One word which felt fresh through each age.

Well one knows that Shakespeare did, back in the  16th century, those old days appear to be very inventive days. Of course those were the days with few rules as to grammar or spelling, forget correct usage and all the other pedantic reasons for not straying from the path, but even so,it was an incredible word count, so many hundreds of our common day words were invented way back them Shakespeare was prolific but, John Milton even more so.

According to Dr Gavin Alexander who trawled through the Oxford Dictionary something like 630 words which are still in existence can be attributed to Milton, and many more which lagged at the first gate.

630 new words, or meanings of words. I would like to be able to do one!

Not as many people know Milton as they do Shakespeare, not so often taught at school, not taken over by Hollywood although I think Paradise Lost would make a seat on the edge film:)

Mostly he is known for Paradise Lost and less famously for Paradise Regained – splendid works to be remembered by. He is also known in more academic circles for his treatise on the freedom of the presses, Areopagitica, which rang such a clarion call that it is quoted in the Supreme Court of America to this day. Not bad for a man from the 17th century.

I suppose being a Puritan in those days of Roman Catholicism, he was always destined to be a rebel.Many of his contemporaries complained of his blatant flouting of supposed ‘poetical rules’ and the authorities complained bitterly at the words condemning their actions. He was a great champion of free speech, with caveats!, A champion of divorce, with limits. He was after all a man of his times and even going as far as he did was perilous.

Anyway – his words. The first one I was ever aware of was Pandemonium – I am not sure how many years I have known about the word being his. I read Paradise Lost for the first time many decades ago maybe back in the 1960s so it may be that long.I liked the idea of Satan’s castle being named so.

I have discovered over the years other words and more recently I have read about them from such as John Crace

Among them


He took space which was just a space and threw in up into the eaves and became the first to use it in the ‘universe’ meaning of the word

He invented sayings

trip the light fantastic
All ears
All hell break loose
Silver lining (in the cloud sense)



We got padlock, embellish, stunning and complacency
Unprincipled and unaccountable

Just to name a few. All seem quite modern, well maybe some such as debauchery aren’t used as much in everyday speech but are still used in writing. They don’t look like made up words – what does one of them look like? After all we willingly take on new words which become common place in a few months even – but will they last 400 years I wonder? It is the very commonplaceness of Milton’s invented words and meanings which delight me. They may have caused comment back then, been disregarded by other educated men, may have caused rage and fury for all I know, however every fibre of me responds with a smile and a ‘yes’ to the champions of nimble inventiveness and maverick disregard for the status quo.

Yay for John Milton:)



To take a Rizzle and a Sloom


I enjoy reading books about words and language. Apart from interest in my language, in history, social movements there is a continuing quest to find out why I’m so rubbish at everything to do with words and the writing of them!:)

However these books do throw up some great little nuggets.

In the Horologicon by Mark Forsyth I came across a delightful word I had never heard before, maybe the American amongst you, may well have as it appears to be your historical word


Apparently it cropped up in late 19th century America and then one day ‘poof!!’ it vanished. The respectable medical community of the day recommended a Rizzle a day as being beneficial to health and well being.

a description written in: The American Medical Bulletin 1890.

‘… How to describe I don’t know, but it is a condition as nearly like sleep as sleep is to death. It consists of doing absolutely nothing.I close my eyes and try and stop all action to the brain. I think of nothing. It only takes a little practice to be able to absolutely stifle the brain.

‘In that delightful condition I remain at least ten minutes, sometimes twenty,. . . I would rather miss a fat fee than that ten minutes Rizzle’.

Not only the word Rizzle that’s sounds delicious but also the state of a Rizzle.

I have been indulging in Rizzling for a few years now without knowing a thing about it, but often I then slip into a Sloom.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary:    Sloom – a gentle sleep or slumber.

I do that also:)

Sleep, sloom, and slumber such gentle sounding words, maybe that is why Rizzle didn’t make it into the 21st century, not soft enough. Sloom hasn’t made it either, too old, that one emerged in the middle of the Middle English period.

It is a shame they are not common words. I like them both so I may well continue with a Rizzle each day with the occasionally Sloom.