Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Like most writers, I love words, especially ones that sound interesting or are unusual. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries set in the Middle Ages. As you might expect, I’ve come across a word or two that sound a bit odd to modern ears. As you also might guess a lot of them are archaic. Here are a few unusual words I’ve come across recently. Not all of these date back to the Middle Ages, but they’re all interesting:

begrumpled – displeased. According to the reference in The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, this one came from a dictionary of obsolete words published in 1857. I think we should bring it back. I was begrumpled last Friday when I realized the local post office didn’t open until ten a.m.

blutterbunged – confounded, overcome by surprise. Okay, I was begrumpled and blutterbunged at the post office.

fizgig – a silly, flirtatious woman.

funambulist – tight rope walker. I suppose they’re having fun up there.

fustilugs — a ponderous clumsy person or a fat slovenly person.

higgledy-piggledy — topsy-turvy, jumbled. This one I’ve seen in more modern books and it’s not listed as archaic in any of the dictionaries I consulted. I just love the way it sounds. And it pretty much describes my work area these days.

miscomfrumple — to rumple, crease. According to The Word Museum, it’s Northamptonshire dialect. The book references an English dialect dictionary from the late 1800s/early 1900s.

skimble-skamble — rambling and confused. Shakespeare gave us this one. According to the OED, it first appeared in 1598 in Henry IV, Part I.

snirtle – to attempt to suppress one’s laughter.

traveltainted – fatigued with travel. I’ve been this a few times, especially when traveling to/from Europe. Those twelve hour flights are not fun.

trinkle – to eavesdrop. Another one from that 1857 dictionary of obsolete words. Besides The Word Museum, I’ve got my eye on Totally Weird and Wonderful Words edited by Erin McKean. It’s a combination of two previous books: Weird and Wonderful Words and More Weird and Wonderful Words.

Guess I know what goes on my Christmas list this year.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

I love begrumpled and snirtle is perfect for the action. What fun these words, thank you!

Sybil Johnson said...

You're welcome! So many interesting words out there we've forgotten about.

Diane Vallere said...

Now to see how many of these show up in your next book!

Sybil Johnson said...

Oh, I'm thinking about ways to fit them in.