Category Archives: Etymology

English Words You’ve Never Used

All slang is a metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.  ~  G.K. Chesterton

Most Americans will never have heard or used some of the words I grew up with.  Although the words I most hear used around here these days are fuck and fucking.  Catch-all expressions for the chronically stupid and uneducated.  So; sprinkle some of these colloquialisms into your lexicon.

    • Arse           ~  backside, a stupid ineffectual idiot
    • Aye            ~  yes
    • Bairn          ~  very young child
    • Baccy         ~  tobacco
    • Bait            ~  packed lunch
    • Beck           ~  stream
    • Bog            ~  toilet
    • Brasso        ~  an adjective for very bad beer, metal polish
    • Cack           ~  shit
    • Cadge        ~  borrow and beg
    • Canny        ~  pretty damn good, also clever and prudent
    • Clarts         ~  runny mud
    • Class          ~  beautiful
    • Divvent      ~  don’t
    • Doon         ~  down
    • Dyke          ~  ditch, unattractive lesbian
    • Fettle         ~  fix
    • Geordie     ~  Native of Newcastle upon Tyne
    • Gob           ~  mouth
    • Gormless   ~  stupidly lacking in ability and initiative
    • Gully          ~  big sharp knife
    • Haporth     ~  next to nothing, almost worthless, contraction of half-penny-worth
    • Hoy            ~  throw
    • Knackered  ~  tired, weary, broken
    • Lug             ~  ear
    • Lum            ~ chimney
    • Marra         ~  very good friend
    • Minging     ~  disgustingly smelly
    • Mortal        ~  very drunk, also ‘mortalious’.
    • Nebby        ~  nosy and intrusively curious
    • Netty          ~  an earth closet toilet, any toilet
    • Nick            ~  steal
    • Nowt          ~  nothing
    • Numpty      ~  ineffectual idiot
    • Pallatic        ~  very drunk
    • Scran          ~  food
    • Sneck         ~  hasp or catch
    • Spelk          ~  splinter
    • Stotting      ~  bouncing, as in ‘the rain is stotting down’
    • Telt             ~   told
    • Tyke            ~  a Yorkshireman or small boy
    • Wazzock     ~  annoyingly stupid ineffectual idiot
    • Wanker       ~ arrogant and contemptible ineffectual idiot, a chronic masterbator
    • Wor            ~  our, or my
    • Yakker        ~  manual worker

Some say that all slang is bad.  And if the Queen doesn’t use a word, then neither should I.  All I know is that I like to surprise and baffle Americans with my very English vocabulary.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

it’s only the Union Jack when it’s flown on the jackstaff of a warship

Mr. Plod the Policeman

There are two people in your life you should never lie to

Lying to ‘Plod’ is almost never a good idea.

It seems had occasion to use the word ‘Plod’ a couple of days ago, and in my version of the English language ‘Plod’ means the Police.  And then I started to think just how many other words we English have for a policeman, or the police in general.  Turns out there’s quite a lot.

But, perhaps it’s not such a good idea to use these slang words around actual policemen, or police women.  Especially don’t say cuntstubble to a WPC.

  • the Bill ~ a shortened form of ‘the Old Bill’.
  • Bizzies ~ a Scouse word, (from Liverpool), meaning the police are always too busy to spend time investigating ordinary crime affecting ordinary people.
  • Bluebottle ~ from Cockney Rhyming slang ‘bottle and glass’ meaning arse.
  • Bobby ~ Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police in 1829, and Bobby is a short form of Robert.  (Also see Peelers.)
  • the Boys in Blue ~ Self-explanatory, the police wear blue uniforms.
  • Constable ~ a word from English medieval times when a constable was a King’s officer of the peace in armies and castles.  English policemen aren’t officers, they’re constables.
  • Copper ~ an old English word meaning ‘someone who captures’ ~ weird, I thought it had to do with a constable’s badge.
  • the Cops ~ from ‘Copper’.
  • Crusher ~ English Victorian slang, from ‘beetle crushers’ a slang name for the heavy boots Victorian policemen wore.
  • Cuntstubble ~ a very derogatory modern term for a female police constable.
  • the Filth ~ no idea what the etymology for that is, but it’s a pretty derogatory word.
  • the Fuzz ~ again I have no idea what the etymology for that is, but it’s another derogatory word.
  • The Heat ~ said to refer to the red lights some police vehicles carried ~ I doubt that very much.
  • the Law ~ obvious.  But also a shortened form of ‘the Long Arm of the Law’.  Like Canadian Mounties the British police always get their man ~ eventually.
  • the Met ~ London’s Metropolitan Police ~ the largest police force in England.
  • the Narcs ~ an undercover narcotics agent ~ also a police informant.
  • the Old Bill ~ who really knows?  It’s a strictly London term, and I suspect it’s some very nasty cockney rhyming slang.
  • the Pigs ~ just derogatory and originating in 19th century England.
  • Peelers ~ From Sir Robert Peel ~ see Bobby above.
  • Plod ~ Mr. Plod the Policeman is a character in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books.  But if you’ve ever seen an older policeman walking, then you’ll agree that they do plod along.
  • Polis ~ Scottish / Glaswegian slang, and if you’ve ever heard a real Glaswegian talk you’ll know why they say Polis for Police.
  • Rozzers ~ 19th century English slang of mostly unknown etymology.  It may be from Polari slang, (homosexual slang).
  • Scotland Yard ~ this was where the police force was first established in London on October 6th 1829.  (Great Scotland Yard at the rear of 4 Whitehall Place).  The headquarters of the Met. are always called Scotland Yard, (now New Scotland Yard).
  • the Sweeny ~ cockney rhyming slang ~ ‘Sweeny Todd’ = ‘Flying Squad’  The Flying Squad is an elite arm of London’s Metropolitan Police, the Met.
  • the Thin Blue Line ~ describing all that’s between the ordinary populace and anarchy.
  • Woodentop or Woody ~ a uniformed police officer, a derogatory term used by plain-clothes detectives.

As you might expect, many of these terms are more than just a little bit derogatory, and the one’s that aren’t date back to Victorian times.  Anything from London is more than likely cockney rhyming slang.

Of interest to my American friends, an Englishman would never, ever call a policeman ‘Sir’.  That honorific term is only used for someone an Englishman really respects, for Example a very senior member of our Royal family.  Sadly, these days not many Englishmen respect the police any more.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

standing outside of 10 Downing Street,  they are a pair of proper policemen, in proper policemen’s helmets

English Weather

Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get.

The English love to talk about the weather; when an Englishman meets a friend or acquaintance they could spend a good hour or so discussing the weather.

The thing is, there are so many topics polite Englishmen almost never talk about; feelings, money, politics, religion, and sex to name just a few taboo topics.

The other thing is; we get so much weather in England.  American tourists in London can never understand that, no matter how sunny and fine a day it is when they leave their hotel, within a hour it will be pouring with rain.

We English also have many, many interesting words and phrases to describe our weather.  Brass Monkeys, Raining Cats and Dogs, A Bit Parky, Chucking It Down, It’s a Scorcher, It’s Just Drizzling, It’s a Bit Damp, Pea Souper, Sea Fret… to quote a few.

English weather is pretty clement, not usually extreme at all.  For us 40 degrees Fahrenheit is bloody cold, and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is bloody hot.  We don’t often get very strong winds, and even though it rains almost all the time, we don’t often get torrential downpours.

Mostly I like the weather in England, at least from April to September / October I like it here.  From October to April it’s bloody awful and everyone in England will have colds, or flu, or even pleurisy.  (I’m just recovering from a bout of pneumonia.)

So, if ever you’re in England, expect to be bored spitless by everyone always talking about the damn weather.

And, by the way, no sensible Englishman believes in Climate Change.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Ash Wednesday

moderation, moral courage, self-denial, self-discipline

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and comes 46 days before Easter.  Since Easter itself is a movable feast, Ash Wednesday can happen on any Wednesday from February 4th to March 10th.  Ash Wednesday is really a Pagan festival, having only been adopted by the Christian Church in 325 AD by Constantine the Great.  (Although almost all Christians will deny it, most, if not all Christian Festivals are built on the back of festivals from other and older religions, civilisations, and cultures.)

sping-goddessLent and Easter is a long festival of Spring ~ in fact the modern English words Lent and Lenten derive from the Old English word Lencten, which means Spring.  As it happens, even the English word Easter derives from the Goddess Oestar / Ostara / Éostre, the Pagan Goddess of Spring, (one of them).

stonehenge1Which begs a couple of questions.  Firstly, when does spring begin?  Conventionally, in the Northern Hemisphere, in England in particular, Spring starts at the vernal equinox, or on the night of March 20th / 21st.  Stonehenge and similar ancient monuments were set up to predict and confirm these astronomical events.  And secondly, what does Lent have to do with Spring?  And I believe the answer to that is in ancient times the end of winter, coming up to Springtime at the vernal equinox, was a time of hunger, starvation, and hard work preparing the land for spring planting.  Ergo, in ancient times people would fast during what is modern Lent, not out of choice, but of absolute necessity.

The deeper one goes into the rituals, superstitions, and deities of these old cultures the more connected to the seasons everything seems to be.  Persephone, the beautiful Greek Goddess of Spring, (Roman Proserpina), was also the Goddess of Death and the Underworld.  That makes perfect sense because the end of winter, when the food was running out and the weather was bad, would be when the old, young, and infirm were  very likely to die.

spring

So, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the time leading up to Spring, makes perfect sense when looked at from the point of view of our ancestors.  It’s not really time for a festival, carnival, or feasting ~ it’s more a time of self-denial and self-discipline.

It all makes sense in terms of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha too.  The end of winter is a time of pain and suffering.  Indulging our wants, desires, and lusts just makes everything worse.  The road to freedom from suffering is through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit.  The way to get through those hard days at the end of winter would have been through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit.

So starting today, what am I giving up for the 46 days of Lent?  It’s going to be something difficult.  Starting today I will not take impulsive and negative actions when I have negative thoughts and feelings like; anger, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, or fears of abandonment ~ all those old symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.  I know that I will have those negative feelings, I just won’t let them get to me.

Maybe I should have decided to give up chocolate instead ~ I’ve already given up booze.

Maybe I’ll just lock myself in the garret for Lent.

~

wiccan moonjack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Full Wolf Moon

The First Full Moon Of 2017.

p1050184

January 12th 2017, and the full moon is close to us today.  Luna isn’t quite at perigee, (the closest she comes to the Earth), that was two days ago on January 10th, so it isn’t quite a supermoon.  However tonight’s full moon will be big and bright, perfect for skywatchers, witches, and sorcerers.

It’s likely that the moon was Mankind’s first reliable calendar, the full moon perhaps measuring the months of the year, although any strictly lunar calendar will see the seasons drift.  Some say that Stonehenge is also a tool to manage the lunar calendar.  And, that the first powerful priests and sorcerers were really astronomers.  All I know is that Stonehenge is a spooky and magical place.

The English word moon derives from the Greek and Latin for ‘measure’.  Other English names for the Moon, are Luna the ancient Roman Goddess of the Moon, (from which we get the word lunatic),  and Selene the ancient Greek Goddess of the Moon, (and Selene is both a given name and an adjective).

moonThe moon affects everything on the Earth, from the behaviour of animals and birds, to our moods, the tides, even women’s menstrual cycles.  In witchcraft, the full moon is the most important time for casting spells ~ magic has more potency under a full moon.  This is the time for enlightenment and psychic awareness, so if you have any sixth sense or psychic abilities they will be at their strongest tonight.  All witches and those with magical and psychic abilities will be acutely aware of the phases of the moon.

In relationships and love the full moon enhances a woman’s sex drive, but this is also a time for a fresh start, forgiveness, acceptance, commitment, and love.  This is the perfect day for a witch to cast a spell and work her love magicSpiritually the full moon is strong, although it’s effects are both negative and positive.  Today a vulnerable man may well be moonstruck with love and desire, but he should know that somewhere out there someone has his best interests at heart.

moonwolfThe first full moon of the year is known as The Wolf Moon.  This derives from Native American Mythology in which wolves hold a very special place.  This is the time of the werewolf ~ the legend of the werewolf goes at least as far back as the ancient Greeks.  Other names for this full moon are the Cold Moon, and the Hunger Moon ~ cold, bright in the darkness, and unforgiving.  This is a time for self-care, reflection, and making real and realistic plans for the rest of the year.

The first full moon of 2017 carries with it mixed messages, good and evil, forgiveness and rejection, life and death, man and woman.  Everything about this full moon is contradictory and complimentary, the very essence of yin and yang, of darkness and light, of balance.  The Wolf Moon is what we make of it.  This Full Wolf Moon a time for decision making, planning, of endings and beginnings, of intense emotional energy.  A sweet smile and laughter will bring the full moon’s power of joy and happiness into your life.  Approach this full moon with a dark spirit, and the rest of your year will be equally dark and gloomy.

This Full Wolf Moon is the Goddess in her Mother aspect.  Create a safe space and clear your mind.  Invite the true spirit of love and understanding into your life.  And, let’s all be careful out there tonight.

~

moonjack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

wiccan moon

Black Friday

Today in America it’s all about shopping.

b5tr9uvigaaduqgThe Friday after Thanksgiving, is the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States.  Some say the reason it’s called Black Friday is because this is the day retailers in the USA start to turn a profit for the year.  All I know is that if I was made to go shopping to Macy’s, JC Penney, Saks, Sears, or Wal-Mart, or anywhere else come to that, at some unearthly hour the day after Thanksgiving, then I’d be in a pretty black mood by the close of play.  Most manly men don’t go for the frenzy of naked consumerism and implausible bargains on offer today.

dscf0015Even though we don’t have Thanksgiving in England, most retail outlets here are trying to introduce the idea of ‘Black Friday Shopping’ to the English.  Like most things which cross the Atlantic from West to East, (American cars, American Halloween, American humor, American Presidents), the materialism of Black Friday doesn’t really work well here.

For a start, unlike a lot of people in a lot of US states, nobody here has today as vacation, so we don’t have to find something to do with our time.  Secondly, we English are a cynical and untrusting lot, and generally think the Black Friday hype is just an attempt by retailers to increase sales volume while at the same time offloading all the crap they can’t sell at any other time of the year.  (Black Friday ‘deals’ are almost inevitably at the rip-off end of the spectrum.) On top of that, November really is a little too early to be the start of the ‘Christmas Season’.

PyewacketAnd, what the average American may not know is that we English have had our very own Black Friday for centuries.  In England Black Friday is any Friday the 13th, and that is a day on which bad things happen.  Nothing good ever happens on any Friday 13th, and it’s become a day to be dreaded; ladders, mirrors, and black cats especially.  There’s even a name for the fear of Friday 13th paraskevidekatriaphobia.

I’m pretty certain that a lot of American men also dread their very own version of Black Friday.   This is a time when all good men really need their urban survival skills.  They could always say they can’t go shopping because they suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia.  Maybe not, it’s a very long word.

~

flagHappy Holidays

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

English / English ~ Brass Monkey Weather

scott-antarctic

~

It’s cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey.

This phrase seems like a good metaphor for very cold weather, but at first sight it’s quite an odd thing to say.  Americans, in particular, may wonder why normally staid and polite Englishmen would come up with something so apparently rude.

This damned place is 18 below zero and I go around thanking God that, anatomically and proverbially speaking, I am safe from the awful fate of the monkey.  ~  Zelda Fitzgerald. (wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald)

There are also some contractions and derivations of this phrase.

  • Brass Monkey’s
  • Brass monkey weather
  • As cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra
  • Cold enough to freeze the tail of a brass monkey
  • Brassed Off ~ meaning ‘pissed off’ (which may or may not have anything to do with any of this)

First of all, let me put your mind at rest, this description of very cold weather has nothing to do with testicles, simian or otherwise.  However, like most colloquial English / English expressions etymologists have no clear idea where, when, and how the phrase came to be.

Like many English expressions, the most widely accepted explanation is that ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’ is nautical / naval in origin.  The balls in this case are iron cannon balls, and the brass monkey is a frame to stack them in.

On dry land the neatest way to store cannon balls is to stack them in a pyramid. That doesn’t work so well aboard a heeling, rolling, and pitching, sailing ship.  Said cannon balls would soon be rolling all over the deck.  So a brass frame was made, the brass monkey, (also known as a shot garland), to hold the cannon balls securely in place.  The theory goes that in cold weather the different coefficients of expansion and contraction of brass and iron would have made the cannonballs roll out of the brass frame.

This is most likely a load of balls.

As usual the professional etymologists don’t have a clue, but it’s a very useful and descriptive phrase.  So, the next time you experience some cold weather, surprise and shock your friends by saying… ‘brrrrr it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey…’

Next time I’ll try to explain £sd…

~

Moon_Nightjackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

English / English ~ Pleb

Many English words have a very doubtful ancestry, but there is no doubt whatsoever concerning the etymology of the word ‘Pleb’.  What is at issue here is usage in English / English.  I would strongly caution anyone against calling any English person a pleb ~ in English / English pleb is a very bad word.

In England, to call someone a ‘Pleb’ is a gross insult ~ pleb is a very pejorative word indeed.  Pleb is also the utter, total, opposite of Posh.

As recently as 2012 a very senior politician was forced to resign after a scandal when he was accused of calling policeman ‘plebs’.  The fact that the politician in question also swore at the police officers, using foul language, was of little import when put against the mere suspicion that the Member of Parliament concerned had called the policemen ‘plebs’.  There is even a name for this scandal ~ plebgate.  (This is funnier than you may think, but you would have to know London to really get the joke.)

As it turned out, the word ‘pleb’ was never used in this case.  The policeman lied.  Had the word actually been used, then that politician’s career would have been over for ever.

weedwomenIn English / English today, ‘Pleb’ means someone of low social status, unsophisticated and uncultured, a common no account person who will never amount to anything, a person to despise and denigrate…  The dictionary definition of ‘pleb’ says an ordinary person…  Not in England.  In England ‘pleb’ implies someone who is maybe one step up from a street drunk.  Pleb is an extremely derogatory term in English / English.

Like many English words, ‘Pleb’ is of Latin origin, (most Latin words have roots in classical Greek).  A pleb was an ordinary citizen of Rome ~ as opposed to a patrician, who was a nobleman and a member of the ruling classes.  To call a man ‘patrician’ is today still something of a compliment.  To call someone a pleb is, and always has been, an insult.

In the USA, a derivation of ‘pleb’ ~ plebe is a perfectly acceptable term for a cadet or freshman.  Just don’t try calling an Englishman a plebe, not unless you want a smack in the gob, (mouth).

Honestly, in England you would often be better off saying ‘Eff Off’ (or words to that effect), or using the ‘C’ word than calling someone a pleb.  Fuck-off, or the ‘C’ word is merely foul and uneducated language.  Pleb is a calculated insult with cultural and class overtones.  That applies doubly so if you are in any way cultured or educated, and the person to whom you are speaking actually is ‘lower class’.

Trust me, in English / English, ‘Pleb’ is a forbidden word.

Next time I’ll discuss the term Brass Monkey.

~

dink+smokejackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

English / English ~ Posh

DSCF0023

A Classic Rolls Royce ~ always posh

In my global travels I have met many different people from many different cultures, and although most have spoken good English, it’s almost never been English / English.  An educated Englishman’s vocabulary contains hundreds of words and phrases which baffle Australians, Americans, New Zealanders, Canadians…  Perhaps it’s time the rest of the world remembered that the language is English.

So, partly at the request of my friend from Orange County, California, USA, I thought I’d try to explain the meaning and etymology of some of these English / English words and idioms.  Starting today with the word posh.

P1040173Posh is an adjective.  It’s a complement, unless it’s used ironically.  To describe someone or something as posh means that they, (he, she, it), are aristocratic, upper-crust, high-class, elegant, stylish, luxurious, gentlemanly, regal…  In other words, the cream of the crop.  Being rich doesn’t mean that you’re also posh ~ Donald Trump is not posh.  Whereas, a classic Jaguar is posh.  (Logic doesn’t enter into it.)

Etymologists can look away now.  Posh comes from the acronym P.O.S.H. ~ Port Out Starboard Home, which was chalked on the sides of the luggage of upper crust people travelling, by sea, from England to India in the Heyday of the Empire.

In the days before air conditioning it could become unbearably hot aboard ship during certain parts of this voyage; down through the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea.  You wanted a cabin on the shady side of the ship, the Northern side.  Going out this was the port side, coming back to England this was the starboard side.  Hence; Port Out, Starboard Home ~ POSH.

Posh is a slightly old-fashioned word ~ if you hear an Englishman using it today, then he’s probably well-educated, well-read, well-spoken, well-bred… in fact quite posh.  The opposite of posh is pleb, which is an insult I’ll explain another time.

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

DSCF0024A classic Rolls Royce is very posh indeed.

(while an Englishman will use words with many origins, Romani is not one of them)

liebster-12

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