The Horologicon

I was supposed to be in London with Andrea today.

Instead I spent the entire day in my pyjamas, half of it asleep on the sofa and the rest of it wrestling with a) staying awake and b) being vaguely domestically competent.

I really am extremely tired of being a woman at the moment.  Words cannot express how tedious it is.

More tedious to go through it than for you to have to read about it, again.

Which is pretty damn tedious indeed.

We shall draw a veil over things of a bodily nature.

Instead I shall tell you that you must all rush out and buy a copy of The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth.

It is a very wonderful book indeed if you are in the slightest bit interested in words and their meanings.

And I am.

It is the partner volume to last year’s best selling The Etymologicon, also by Forsyth, in which he talks about the origins of every day words and phrases.  This book is all about the words we don’t use any more, but really should.

And there are some belters.

I have already bored everyone in my immediate vicinity to death with the word:

Feaguing: To Feague a horse: to put ginger up a horse’s fundament, and formerly, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well; it is said, a forfeit is incurred by any horse-dealer’s servant, who shall show a horse without first feaguing him.

I have enquired within about this practice. A blogging friend who is a horse owner and whose father was a horse trainer informed me that this is no longer practiced by horse owners. I feel that this can only be a good thing for all concerned, as I said to her. She remarked that it was particularly welcome news for the eels.

I cannot disagree.

Another favourite word is pingling:

To pingle is to push your food around your plate in a desultory manner without actually eating very much of it.

This practice has not fallen out of fashion, despite the word not getting an airing these days.  I am going to reinstate it, and it will, without a doubt be used by me at least once a day with regard to my children at meal times.

Fisk is also an excellent word.

Fisking involves rushing around your work place carrying large quantities of paper and/or documents. It makes you look incredibly busy while you are in fact doing nothing of any use at all.

When I had a proper job, in an office, I fisked at least once a day, if not more.

I am wondering if there is another word which describes being so much in despair at the nature of your job and the constant feeling of ‘is this all there really is to life’, that you spend an inordinate amount of time hiding out in the executive toilets praying for miraculous release.

If there isn’t, there should be.  I seemed to spend large parts of my working life doing that very thing.

Another excellent word, which is work related, but which is something I do a lot, both in work and out of it is shturmovschina.

Shturmovschina is the practice of working frantically just before a deadline, having not done anything for the last month.

My whole existence has consisted of rushing from one shturmovschina to another it seems to me.

Finally I will leave you with this wonderful description of the best way to wipe an arse.  This is Sir Thomas Urquhart’s 1653 translation of Rabelais:

I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs.  And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temperate heat of the goose…

It goes a long way to explaining why geese are so perennially angry with everyone.

8 responses to “The Horologicon

  1. Pingling should definitely be reinstated – a single word to describe the eating habits of children everywhere!

    I shall introduce Jan to the word shturmovschina – he is an expert at it. Bit of a mouthful though – no wonder it’s gone out of fashion.

    My dad will enjoy both these books, I think. There’s his Christmas present finally sorted (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and hopefully I’ll be able to borrow them when I’m over there. Unless I give in to temptation before then and purchase my own, of course…

    • Temptation is everywhere. I think this year there are only a few people who I have bought things for that I actually want myself.

  2. All my working life has been spent with fiskers. I have partaken of much of it myself.
    And I find the image of taking a goose into the privvy a startling one. If not a dead giveaway. Or did people just literally shit in their own back yards back then?

  3. I am afraid that I have heard of the (human, sexual) practice of figging which must be etymologically related to feaguing and is much the same thing, just with a different bottom for the ginger to go in.

  4. Pingling – perfect, this is what our US guests do after pronouncing the fare we offer is “delicious”
    Even more lighthearted is “The Meaning of Lif” co-authored by Douglas Adams, full of words that should exist…

  5. I love The Meaning of Liff. There are at least three copies in the house at the moment. I hate the idea I might run out.

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