These are words, unlikely to fit under any other category, whose theme is simply, "I laughed when I learned of these words." Something, be it the sound, the meaning, or the etymology, was irresistible. I hope they tickle your fancies too.
Dickens recalled seeing a word as a child and being much puzzled by it, until he had a sudden flash of understanding. Chesterton, struck by that story, used this as a word, indeed almost as his motto. Here's how Tolkien, equally fascinated, tells the story.
I was driving downtown one day many years ago and passed a mysterious sign saying "ENTERTHEDRAGON." Before I figured out I was driving past a cinema showing a Bruce Lee movie, my addled mind was wondering what shape an "enter-THEDRA-gon" could possibly be...
An ENTERTHEDRAGON is a 7-sided figure, with all sides unequal.. and it can only be entered by an Asian guy with one foot off the ground...
Welcome to our world.
kinnikinnik - a mixture of dried leaves, bark and sometimes tobacco, smoked by certain of the American Indians
This word's claim to fame is that it is the longest palindromic word in English. (It is more often spelled kinnikinnick, but that is no palindrome.)
palindrome - a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward
muckender – a handkerchief
Could any word be more sharply descriptive? It's a perfectly serviceable word that seems to have fallen into near-total disuse.
Kinnikinnick (with a "c")... a small trailing evergreen shrub with bright red berries.
Also known in various parts of Canada as Bearberry or Raisin d'ours.
All these names seem to recognize a bear connection. Wanna see a picture? Click here.
Arctostaphylos from Greek arktos, a bear, and staphyle, bunch of grapes; uva-ursi from Latin uva, grape and ursa, bear.
Kinninnick is a circumboreal plant and was used by many aboriginal groups as food or medicine. The leaves were dried and smoked like tobacco and there are some reports that the smoke had a narcotic effect. It was later mixed with tobacco introduced by Europeans.
Nancy Turner, in Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples, UBC Press, 1995, says, "The Nuxalt formerly served Kinnikinnick berries to chiefs at feasts; they dumped the berries into a large pot of melted Mountain Goat grease and ate them with spoons". Makes your mouth water, doesn't it?
Pogglethrope – one gleefully taking joy in self-satisfaction, like a clucking strutting hen
A reader alerted us to an old report of this wonderful coinage, which unfortunately did not catch on. Here is the report, with minor abbreviation.
An article by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher appeared in the newspapers a short time ago, bearing the somewhat curious title of "Mr. Pogglethrope." The individuals to whom he applies this epithet are those self-complacent persons who live in a state of perpetual sunshine and satisfaction, and never know what it is to become weary of themselves and all the world besides.
Perhaps you have a Pogglethrope among your friends. Whenever you call upon him, he recounts for your benefit all the happy turns which he has made in conversation, and the little repartees in which he always seems to himself the victor. If he happens to be a literary character, you are sure of being treated to portions of his latest productions, over which he exults with almost childish glee. And yet you have not the heart to get angry at this innocent joy in every thing that he does.
In the sphere of animal life we find something similar. Did you ever see a creature more satisfied with itself than a hen? All day long she is immensely busy: whether she has a brood of little ones or no one but herself to provide for, makes not a whit of difference. Every speck that turns up is eyed with a most discerning look, and gobbled with a chuckle of complacency, which cannot but amuse the spectator. But of all their doings, nothing fills them with so much wonder as the laying of an egg. She feels all the joy of a great discoverer; it is the beginning of a new era. She listens! Shall nothing celebrate it? It shall not die unknown! Off she flies with an exuberance of cackle, jumps down from the haymow, and goes proclaiming, "A new thing! a wonderful thing! an admirable thing! and I did it!" Her neighbors join in with as much enthusiasm as if the deed were their own.
These are the Pogglethropes of the barn-yard, or shall we call Mr. Pogglethrope the hen of society?
- J. G. Porter, Hamilton Literary Magazine, June 1871This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
poppycock – senseless talk; nonsense
In the view of some, the root meaning is "baby poop".
The sources agree that the -cock is from a root meaning "dung" (nice euphemism), but they differ on the root of the pop-. Consider the english word pap, meaning "soft or semiliquid food, as for infants". MW reads the pop- in poppycock as 'soft'; AHD reads it as 'food'. Hence poppycock would mean either 'soft poop' or 'food poop', the latter being rather a redundancy.
But I'd go with a third reading. Chiari, citing an Indo-European root "pap" meaning baby, takes poppycock to mean, at root, 'infant poop' or 'baby-poop'. This seems to convey the right sense of both immaturity and irresponsible voluminous frequency.
panjandrum; grand panjandrum - an important person, or a pompously self-important person
An amusing sound, with an amusing story behind it. In the 1755 actor Charles Macklin boasted that he could memorize any passage at a single hearing. Samuel Foote pointedly punctured this pompous pretentious presumption. He promptly penned this passage to measure Macklin's memory:
quote:Macklin, they say, sputteringly refused to repeat a word of it.
pettifoggery – quibbling; argument over petty points (typically used in the phrase "a pettifogging lawyer")
[1564, from petty, the second element possibly obs. Du. focker, from Flem. focken "to cheat." Other etymologies are possible.]
'Pettifoggery' has a nice sound to it, but what really made me laugh was the thought of what other words might also derive from Du. focker, and Flem. focken. Whom better to quote than a lawyer?