Words, Wordy, Wordle
Have you discovered Wordle yet? No? Oh what a treat you have in store if, like me, you love words! My grandson Rory got me hooked and now I even plan my first random five letter word of the day whilst still in bed.
What I love is the simplicity, the fun, the challenge and the fact that it’s just one word a day, so it’s impossible to get sucked into a rabbit hole for hours. To find the daily Wordle you have a maximum of six attempts. So you type in a random five letter word and see if you have chanced on any correct letters. If you have, the letter will turn yellow if it’s the right letter in the wrong place, and green if it’s the right letter in the right position in the word. Today’s Wordle was ‘LIGHT” and I started with INEPT, followed by CLOUD, followed by GUILT, which gave me L,G, and I, with the correctly positioned T, so I deduced, on my fourth attempt, that today’s Wordle must be ‘LIGHT.’
Which is actually a perfect word to inspire me whilst writing this, because I feel very passionately that words and language enlighten and enrich us by illuminating what would otherwise be a very dark world devoid of meaningful communication.
Before you start thinking that I’ve completely lost the plot and am talking a load of old codswallop, my inspiration for this has come from some research that shows that younger people are no longer familiar with phrases and expressions that you and I have been using all our lives. So, I’m as keen as mustard to show you that I’m not as mad as a hatter and that, when it comes to words and language, I really know my onions.
Of course, language must constantly evolve, but I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and say that if these wonderfully rich and pithy phrases gradually become as dead as a doornail, then that will take the biscuit. So I will prove that they aren’t yet ready for the knacker’s yard and try to stay as cool as a cucumber and not get my knickers in a twist as I explain why this isn’t just a storm in a teacup but really important. Hopefully I won’t make a dog’s dinner out of it and who knows? Maybe a stitch in time will save nine!
What I particularly love is the origin of some of these phrases. Did you know that the expression ‘a square meal’ comes from the navy, because food on board ships was served on square plates? Anyone who joined the navy was therefore guaranteed a ‘square meal’, which was sometimes more than they’d get at home. And what about ‘be there or be square’ as a warning that you’ll miss out and be seen as ‘boring’ and ‘uncool’. Calling someone a ‘square’ was a term of abuse in the 1950s and was often used alongside the term ‘straight’. However that word was co-opted to indicate sexuality, just as the word ‘gay’ has gradually come to mean something entirely different from ‘happy’ and ‘full of the joys of spring’ which was the way I would have used it as a child.
And what about regional differences? I can never hear the phrase “Well, I go to the foot of our stairs!” without imagining it being said in a Yorkshire accent. It means the same as ‘stone the crows’ (Australian?) “stripe me pink” or “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” - expressions of great surprise which may just be completely nonsensical. Why go to the foot of your stairs if you are surprised? If there is anyone from ‘oop North’ who is reading this who can enlighten us, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I can reassure you that a nod’s as good as a wink and we won’t think that you’re flogging a dead horse. Especially not me, as I come from East Anglia where it’s assumed that, probably because of in-breeding, we’re all a few sandwiches short of a picnic. There’s a code that doctor’s used to use for their less bright patients which was NFN, meaning ‘Normal For Norfolk’. I remember my Norfolk born parents saying that something was ‘on the huh’. I bet you don’t know what that means! Well I still say it myself whenever I see something crooked or askew “that picture is on the huh!” which I suppose proves that I am a chip off the old block, and as we all know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
So, language evolves and fashions change, but if you are the greatest writer in the English language, then the glorious phrases you coined in the sixteenth century will live on forever. It was Shakespeare who used the power of his imagination to send us on a wild goose chase and in one fell swoop he gave us far too much of a good thing. We may wear our heart on our sleeve whilst being eaten up by the green-eyed monster of jealousy, but in our heart of hearts we know that he had a heart of gold, so there was method in his madness. Shakespeare also said ‘good riddance’ as he sent people packing, maybe to vanish into thin air, but we come full circle to properly appreciate the glorious ways that his pen permanently enriched our spoken word.
And how clever and witty do you have to be to take archaic words and find a sardonic use for them now? That’s what Susie Dent (she of Dictionary Corner on Countdown) does in her extremely popular Twitter feed every day. Over the past few days, as we have watched the shenanigans around Partygate and the Sue Gray report play out, Susie has offered us ‘forwaked’ (14th Century) meaning weary from waiting and watching for something that never seems to materialise’, ‘roundaboutation’ (19th Century) meaning bloviating or evasive talk that focuses on everything but the subject in hand, and ‘psitticism’ also from the 19th Century meaning the meaningless or mechanical repetition of words from the Latin ‘psittacus’ or parrot. And in case you are wondering, ‘bloviation’ is a style of empty, pompous, political speech used by US President Warren G Harding who described it as “the art of speaking for a long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.”
Which brings me back to the present day. Yesterday I learnt the expression ‘woke fishing’. Any thoughts about what that might mean? How about ‘catfishing’ or ‘ghosting’, ‘benching’ or even ‘zombieing’ someone? If you have been ‘swiping right’ recently you may know that we are in the realm of internet dating with a whole new vocabulary for the online goings-on between people who are hoping to meet their life partners. In case you are wondering, ‘catfishing’ is the phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into romantic relationships, whilst ‘woke fishing’ is pretending to be socially progressive to hook people with ‘woke’ views whilst not actually caring about them at all. And I think that we can all identify with ‘ghosting’ which certainly happened back in the day when a boy that you fancied like crazy initially showed interest and then ignored you completely. We called it ‘dumping’ but it was still painful!
I think I may have been bending your ear for long enough. Hopefully you don’t think that I’ve completely lost the plot, but, just in case, I will put a sock in it now. Do, however, drop me a line below to share any expressions that you remember either from your childhood or from your particular part of the world. Let’s share them in order to keep some of these wonderfully rich and evocative expressions alive. I’m off to see a man about a dog. Or perhaps I’ll do today’s Wordle. Toodle Pip!
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Makeup Magic Monday - Winter Skin Rescue
We are back this New Year with another Makeup Magic Monday session, and this time we will be discussing our top tips for winter skincare. Sally will demonstrate our *brand new* Hydrating Clay Mask and we will talk about looking after your skin from the inside out!
Day: Monday 7th February
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Day: Friday 18th February
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