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Don’t dringle when increasing your vocabulary

Over the last couple of years, I picked up a couple of books I kept telling myself I was going to read the way they were intended.

One, “Year of Wonder,” is written by Clemency Burton-Hill, and she chooses a different piece of classical music for each day of the year.

The other, “Words for Every Day of the Year,” by Steven Poole is exactly what the title says.

When I say I decided to read them the way they were intended, I mean I read one page a day, the page dedicated to that day. I sometimes then go online and try to find on YouTube the classical piece written about, but that one is hard to use for examples in a column.

So I decided to go back over the first three months of the year, and pick out some of the words I found most interesting. I did find Poole was sometimes picking words I already knew, which made me feel good about the size of my vocabulary,

However, of course, there were other words I didn’t know, but some of them I might start using every once in a while, just to shake people up a bit.

Take ‘dringle’, for example. It is noted as a word from East Anglia in England, meaning ‘to waste time in a lazy lingering manner’. That sounds like a word I could use to describe myself some weekends (and admit it, so could you, dear reader).

How about a word for something I’m sure everyone has done at one time or another, but probably never knew there was a word for it. Someone is handing out small candies or the like, and of course you don’t have a proper container to put them in.

So you cup your hands, let the donor of the goodies fill the receptacle so formed, and then enjoy. What you almost certainly didn’t know was the word for that actually dates back to Old Norse, and it is ‘gowpen’. It may have started as Old Norse, but it was still in use in England in the last decade of the 19th century, so it doesn’t deserve to just be thrown roughly to the curb.

The next time you’re the one handing out the sweets, invite the recipients to form a gowpen, and see if any of them have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

My final word for today is one where we know exactly when it came about and who was the first person to use it. The word is ‘bafflegab’, which many people have probably heard and know to mean gobbledygook, bureaucratese, official jargon.

Or, as Milton A. Smith defined the word in 1933, “Multiloquence characterized by a consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, incognizability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing procrustean determination by governmental bodies.”

But I’m sure you already knew that definition.

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