Last week we looked at words that survive only as part of a familiar 'and' phrase. Now, dropping the ‘and’, we’ll see some that survive only in a longer word or phrase.
Our first word largely disappeared by the start of the 20th century, and has survived only as a part of the word overwhelm.
whelm – 1. to ruin or destroy by covering completely (typically with water, but also with earth, snow, etc.) 2. to similarly engulf or bear down upon (as flood, storm, avalanche) [closer to ‘overwhelm’)
I do like a another, older sense of this word: ‘to cover with a dish, bowl etc. turned concave side down’.
– New York Times, Apr. 12, 1902
Today’s fossil word can be an adjective or noun. It survives within two modern words, one for each of those two senses.
Fossil word: hoar – 1. adj.: grey or grey-haired, as with age 2. noun: hoarfrost (see below)
hoarfrost (or hoar frost) – a grayish-white feathery or fernlike deposit of frost
hoary –1. hoar (sense 1; adjective); grey 2. extremely old, and trite
Some good authorities say hoary, in the sense of ‘ancient’, is positive in sense (“so old as to inspire veneration”), but I agree with those who find in negative, as above. See quotes.
And hoar-frost twinkles on the trees,
How very readily one sees
That these are whose--but whose are these?
– W. T. Pooh, Lines Written by a Bear of Very Little Brain, in A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Their solution wasn't perfect, it was just better than the hoary alternative, rendering decisions by gut feeling.
– Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
There is hoary joke among the clergy that describes a guided tour of heaven.
– Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus
Oh, I do love that AA Milne!
fangled – characterized by silly affectations or by peculiar notions
Even Shakespeare preferred new-fangled to plain old fangled (three usages vs. one), and nowadays you’ll rarely see fangled standing alone, without a prefix of new- or the like. Here are a few of those rare instances.
– William H. Gass, Mrs. Mean
That’s what you get for eddicating him so much. It's just what Mr. Allen tells me when I spoke about sending our Jim to high school. No, he says, none of those high-fangled schools for a son of mine. I wants ‘em to be workers, not loafers, he says; and he was right.
– Eugene O'Neill, The Personal Equation (OK, so this one has a hyphenated prefix. So sue me!)
Any Manhattan parent knows … the feeder nurseries, the résumé-stuffer ''Language for Tots'' classes at 6 months and the tricky mazes and shapes on the "E.R.B.," the required private preschool I.Q. test. You could see these fangled accouterments as an exploitation of our only constantly renewable natural resource, infancy.
– New York Times, March 24, 2002
fettle – condition or state [from the verb fettle, "to make ready, arrange"]
Interesting etymology. The verb fettle "to arrange" is from fetel "a girdle, belt" (!), which is in turn from *fat- "to hold" (!!!). I presume this is all in the same family as Old English fætt, which meant "to cram, stuff”.]
Fettle is familiar from in fine fettle. It’s almost always used in such positive-adjective phrases: in splendid fettle, in prime fettle, etc. Here are a few examples without the positive adjective (I can find none without the “in”):
– Forbes, Nov. 24, 2003
If swarms of summer mosquitoes have put you in a hot, itchy fettle, let SOS Skin Accidents by Sanoflore come to the rescue.
– New York Times, July 14, 2006
Is this a British usage? I can't recall ever hearing this word, or any of these phrases.
"Fine fettle" is reasonably common in UK English. Maybe a little old-fashioned nowadays but most people would know what it means
cahoots – collusion; questionable collaboration
[Origin? Some suggest French cahute, cabin; others say that in Middle-ages Germany, bandits near the Black Forest in shacks called kajuetes.]
Interrestingly, OED does not have this word. It's nearly always used in the phrase “in cahoots,” or the like (some rare exceptions are below), and I’m not sure that the word was otherwise used in the past.
– The Age (Australia), Nov. 20, 2003
Where Mason sees indifference or incompetence, Farrell sees cover-ups and cahoots.
– Miami Herald, Sept. 26, 1993
interesting.. this phrase seems to be a favorite of thriller novelists such as US'n Lawrence Sanders, to wit:
""You sound in fine fettle, Perce," I said.
"Fine fettle?" he said. "I got a fettle on me you wouldn't believe—a tough fettle, a boss fettle. I got me a sweet forty-eighter, and nothing and nobody is going to pry me loose until Monday morning.""
- fine fettle
you're gonna have to expand on this for me. cran certainly does appear on its own in Scots dialects (see Burns and Scott). are they beyond the pale?
also, if you perform the usual word origin black magic, it seems cran is related to crane.
Yes, but cran meaning 'crane' doesn't exist. Unless that's its meaning in those Scots dialects. That's all.
We missed you at the chat.
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
Did you ever notice the weirdness of the word “woebegone”? It seems like you’re saying a command, “Woe, be gone!”, but that’s not its meaning.
Its story begins with a word that has been obsolete since about 1500. bego first meant “to go about, occupy, inhabit”, and then came to mean “to form one’s environment” or “to influence as one’s environment does”.
c1386: I was … rich and young and well begon. (Chaucer)
woebegone – 1. (obsolete:) beset with woe; oppressed with misfortune, sorrow, etc. 2. showing distress, misery, anguish, or grief
– C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
short shrift – rapid and unsympathetic dismissal; curt treatment
A very recent example:
– Sunday Mirror (UK) March 16, 2008
It seems that when capital punishment was imposed, the authorities allowed the condemned man a last confession, but would not let him drag it out and dely execution. Short shrift meant a brief space of time allowed for a criminal to make his confession before execution. (Shakespeare, Richard III: “Make a short Shrift, he longs to see your Head.”)¹ From there short shrift evolved into its current meaning.
¹This is according to OED. To be fair, I should add that Quinion has slightly different slant, at least as I read the two.
another very recent example:
"even 'abbacinare' gets longer shrift!"
-tsuwm, March 14, 2008 (here)
I love threads like these