I’m fascinated by odd names and weird words… I always have been. One of my earliest memories, probably when I was about seven, I would sit on the humpty (a pouffe) in a little gap between an armchair and the radio, reading a dictionary, looking for strange and unknown words… not naughty words, I don’t mean! At the back of the dictionary was a list of names and their meanings and I used to be fascinated by them.
Maybe it was because I have an unusual name that I was so interested; I wasn’t the only one with an uncommon name at school, there was a girl called Zebretta, another called Roseanne (common now, but very unusual then) a boy called Barto, in among all the Angelas and Patricias, Lindas and Jennifers, the Johns and Richards and Davids and Philips.
I was looking up something else today and came across a site which had a collection of ‘weird and wonderful words’ – well, I was totally lost for quite a while, finding all sort of unusual nouns and verbs. I was surprised in the list that there were quite a few I knew… such as:
- bawbee – Scottish a coin of low value
- claggy – dialect sticky or able to form sticky lumps
- hoggin – a mixture of sand and gravel, used especially in road-building
- martlet – heraldry a small, swallow-like bird with tufts of feathers in place of legs and feet (the Elsden coat of arms has three martlets!)
- moonraker – a native of the county of Wiltshire
- mudlark – a person who scavenges in riverside mud at low tide for anything of value
- nesh – dialect weak, delicate, or feeble
- ortanique – a cross between an orange and a tangerine
- pettitoes – pig’s trotters, especially as food
- selkie – Scottish a mythical sea creature like a seal in water but human on land
- shippon dialect a cattle shed
- subfusc – the dark formal clothing worn for examinations and ceremonial or formal occasions at some universities.
- turbary – the legal right to cut turf or peat for fuel on common ground or on another person’s ground
As for thrutch and galligaskins… one is a narrow gorge or ravine, the other is a type of loose breeches worn in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries!