1. to make a crackling sound; crackle.
Kate could hardly remember now the dry rigid pallor of the heat, when the whole earth seemed to crepitate viciously with dry malevolence; like memory gone dry and sterile, hellish. – D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, 1926
When she came into the room, shaking rain-pearls from the hem of her black coat, I could feel her excitement–when she was like that the air around her seemed to crepitate as if an electric current were passing through it. – John Banville, Athena, 1995
Crepitate derives from Latin crepitātus, the past participle of crepitāre “to rattle, rustle, chatter,” a frequentative verb from crepāre and having the same meaning. The word entered English in the 17th century and meant “to break wind, fart,” a meaning that crepitāre had in Latin; the word’s politer senses date from the 19th century.
1. the art of writing words with the proper letters, according to accepted usage; correct spelling.
2. the part of language study concerned with letters and spelling.
3. a method of spelling, as by the use of an alphabet or other system of symbols; spelling.
4. a system of such symbols: Missionaries provided the first orthography for the language.
5. an orthographic projection, or an elevation drawn by means of it.
… at bottom I disrespect our orthography most heartily, and as heartily disrespect everything that has been said by anybody in defence of it. Nothing professing to be a defence of our ludicrous spellings has had any basis, so far as my observation goes, except sentimentality. – Mark Twain, “Chapters from My Autobiography,” North American Review, Volume CLXXXV, 1907
“Pardon me, sir. An urgent message just come on the despatch cart.” “‘Came,’ Constable.” The inspector examined the note. “Extraordinary. It seems, Constable Thackeray, that someone is asking me to release you from my class. I shall not refuse. Since the finer points of orthography have eluded you for so long, I am sure that they can wait another week. – Peter Lovesey, Abracadaver, 1972
Orthography stems from the Greek word orthós meaning “straight, upright, correct.” It entered English in the early 1400s.
1. going beyond the requirements of duty.
2. greater than that required or needed; superfluous.
The manner of the Quartermaster had that air of supererogatory courtesy about it which almost invariably denotes artifice; for, while physiognomy and phrenology are but lame sciences at the best, the perhaps lead to as many false as right conclusions, we hold that there is no more infallible evidence of insincerity of purpose, short of overt acts, than a face that smiles when there is no occasion, and the tongue that is out of measure smooth. – James Fenimore Cooper, The Pathfinder, 1840
But you are always given to surprise me with abundant kindness–with supererogatory kindness. I believe in that, certainly. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to H. S. Boyd, August 14, 1844
Supererogatory stems from the Medieval Latin superērogātōrius, with the root word ērogāre meaning “to pay out.” It entered English in the late 1500s.
1. (of a usually complicated technical or computer process) done, operating, or happening in a way that is hidden from or not understood by the user, and in that sense, apparently “magical”: I just downloaded an automagical update to my word processing software that somehow fixed the problems.
According to Sterling, the result “is that I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head. They’re inventoried through an automagical inventory voodoo, work done far beneath my notice by a host of machines. I no longer bother to remember where I put things.” – Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, 2010
The scientific community calls this approach “automagical” … The manufacturer wants us to believe in–and trust–the magic. Even when things work well, it is somewhat discomforting to have no idea of how or why. – Donald A. Norman, The Design of Future Things, 2007
Automagical entered Engish in the 1980s. Its first element, auto, stems from the Greek autómatos meaning “self-moving”; magical can be traced to the Greek magikós.
139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language
When I say “Old English” what comes to mind? The ornate, hard-to-read script? Reading Beowulf in your high school English class? The kinds of figurative compound nouns – or kennings – like “swan of blood” and “slaughter-dew” that have sustained heavy metal lyrics for decades?
Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, was a language spoken by the Angles and the Saxons – the first Germanic tribes to settle the British Isles. They were not the first inhabitants, as any Welsh or Gaelic speaker will tell you, but their language did form the basis for the Angle-ish we speak today. But then why can’t we modern-day English speakers understand Old English? In terms of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, Old English resembles its cousins Dutch and German more than it does modern English. So how did English change so drastically?
The short answer is that the English language changed forever after the Norman invasion brought a new ruling class of French speakers to the British Isles in 1066. French was the language of the nobility for the next 300 years – plenty of time for lots of French words to trickle down to the merchant and peasant classes. For example, the Anglo-Saxons already had words for “sheep” and “cows”, but the Norman aristocracy – who usually only saw these animals on the plate – introduced mouton (mutton) and boeuf (beef). Today, nearly thirty percent of English words come from French.
As a result, modern English is commonly thought of as a West Germanic language with lots of French and, thanks to the church, Latin influence. But this history of English’s development leaves out a very important piece of the linguistic puzzle – Old Norse: the language of the Vikings.
How To Speak Viking
The Old Norse noun víking meant an overseas expedition, and a vikingr was someone who went on one of these expeditions. In the popular imagination, the Vikings were essentially pirates from the fjords of Denmark and Norway who descended on medieval England like a bloodthirsty frat party; they raped, pillaged, murdered, razed villages and then sailed back across the North Sea with the loot.
But the truth is far more nuanced. The earliest Viking activity in England did consist of coastal raids in the early ninth century, but by the 870s the Danes had traded sword for plow and were settled across most of Northern England in an area governed by treaties known as the Danelaw. England even had Danish kings from 1018 to 1042. However, the more successful and longer-lasting Norman conquest in 1066 marked the end of the Viking era and virtually erased Danish influence in almost all aspects of English culture but one: its effect on the development of the English language.
Traust me, þó (though) it may seem oddi at first, we er still very líkligr to use the same words as the Vikings did in our everyday speech. Þeirra (their) language evolved into the modern-day Scandinavian languages, but þeir (they) also gave English the gift of hundreds of words.
[A note on the letter þ: the Old Norse letter, called thorn, makes the same sound as the “th” in “thin”.]
Names of Days
The most obvious Viking influence on modern English is the word Thursday(Þorsdagr), which you can probably guess means “Thor’s day”.
“Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Friday” are sometimes also attributed to the Norse gods Tyr, Odin and Freya, respectively; but the days are actually named for the Anglo-Saxon equivalents of these gods, Tiw, Wodan and Friga. The similarity of these names points to the common ancestry of the various Germanic tribes in prehistoric northern Europe – centuries before their descendants clashed on England’s shores.
War & Violence
If the Vikings are famous for one thing, it’s their obsession with war. They didn’t just bring death and destruction to England in the Middle Ages, they brought really cool words for death and destruction. They were certainly a rough bunch. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle.
- berserk/berserker – berserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’. A berserkr was a Viking warrior who would enter battle in a crazed frenzy, wearing nothing for armor but an animal skin.
- club – klubba. People have been bashing each other with heavy things since time immemorial, but not until the Danes started bringing this weapon down on English heads did this blunt weapon receive its fittingly blunt name.
- ransack – rannsaka (to search a house)
- These days, the adjective scathing is reserved for sharp criticism, but in the context of the original meaning of scathe (to injure), skaða takes on a much more visceral quality.
- slaughter – slatra (to butcher)
- Even though the gun wasn’t invented until centuries after the Viking era, the word comes from Old Norse. The most common usage was in the female name Gunnhildr: gunn and hildr both can translate as “war” or “battle”. Only truly badass Vikings named their infant daughters “Warbattle”.
Society & Culture
But life in the Danelaw wasn’t all murder and mayhem. Ironically, these savage berserkers also gave us words that are central to our “civilized” culture:
|bylaw – bylög (village-law)||sale – sala|
|heathen – heiðinn (one who inhabits the heath or open country)||skill – skil (distinction)|
|Hell – In Norse mythology, Loki’s daughter Hel ruled the underworld.||steak – steik (to fry)|
|husband – hús (house) + bóndi (occupier and tiller of soil) = húsbóndi||thrall – þræll (slave)|
|law – lag||thrift – þrift (prosperity)|
|litmus – litr (dye) + mosi (lichen; moss)||tidings – tíðindi (news of events)|
|loan – lán (to lend)||troll|
|saga||yule – jol (a pagan winter solstice feast)|
Although most English animal names retain their Anglo-Saxon roots (cow, bear, hound, swine, chicken, etc) the Vikings did bring certain animals names into the vernacular:
- bug – búkr (an insect within tree trunks)
- bull – boli
- reindeer – hreindyri
- skate – skata (fish)
- wing – vængr
Some words associated with hunting and trapping also come from Old Norse. Sleuth now means “detective”, but the original slóth meant “trail” or “track”. Snare, on the other hand, retains the original meaning of O.N. snara.
Old Norse is good at describing bleikr landscapes and weather. This was especially useful in the Vikings’ adopted northern England, where flatr or rogg (rugged) terrain can be shrouded in fok, and oppressed by gustr of wind and lagr (low) ský(clouds).
Much of the Danelaw bordered swamps and alluvial plains, so it’s no surprise that many Norse words for dirty, mucky things survive in English:
- dirt – drit (excrement)
- dregs – dregg (sediment)
- mire – myrr (bog)
- muck – myki (cow dung)
- rotten – rotinn
The Norse Legacy in English
Thanks to the cross-cultural fermentation that occured in the Danelaw – and later when England was temporarily absorbed into Canute the Great’s North Sea Kingdom – the English language is much closer to that of its Scandinavian neighbors than many acknowledge. By the time that the Norman conquest brought the irreversible influence of French, Old English had already been transformed beyond its Anglo-Saxon roots.
This is still in evidence today; modern English grammar and syntax are more similar to modern Scandinavian languages than to Old English. This suggests that Old Norse didn’t just introduce new words, but influenced how the Anglo-Saxons constructed their sentences. Some linguists even claim that English should be reclassified as a North Germanic language (along with Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish), rather than a West Germanic language (with Dutch and German). The Viking influence may be most apparent in the Yorkshire dialect, which uses even more Norse words in daily speech than standard English does.
English is probably too much of a hybrid to ever neatly classify, but its Old Norse rótis clearly there among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin roots. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries, but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr (birth) undtil we deyja (die) – Norse’s raw energy simmers under the surface of everything we say.
More Norse Words
|bark – bǫrkr||rid – rythja (to clear land)|
|bask – baðask (reflexive of baða, “to bathe”)||run – renna|
|billow – bylgja||scare – skirra|
|blunder – blundra (to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly)||scrape – skrapa|
|call – kalla (to cry loudly)||snub – snubba (to curse)|
|cast – kasta (to throw)||sprint – spretta (to jump up)|
|choose – kjósa||stagger – stakra (to push)|
|clip – klippa (to cut)||stain – steina (to paint)|
|crawl – krafla (to claw)||stammer – stemma (to hinder or dam up)|
|gawk – ga (to heed)||sway – sveigja (to bend; to give way)|
|get – geta||take – taka|
|give – gefa||seem – sœma (to conform)|
|glitter – glitra||shake – skaka|
|haggle – haggen (to chop)||skip – skopa|
|hit – hitta (to find)||thwart – þvert (across)|
|kindle – kynda||want – vanta (to lack)|
|race – rás (to race, to move swiftly)||whirl – hvirfla (to go around)|
|raise – reisa||whisk – viska (to plait or braid)|
|axle – öxull (axis)||loft – lopt (air, sky; upper room)|
|bag – baggin||mug – mugge|
|ball – bǫllr (round object)||plow, plough – plogr|
|band (rope)||raft – raptr (log)|
|bulk – bulki (cargo)||scale (for weighing) – skal (bowl, drinking cup)|
|cake – kaka||scrap – skrap|
|egg||seat – sæti|
|glove – lofi (middle of the hand)||skirt – skyrta (shirt)|
|knot – knutr||wand – vondr (rod)|
|keel – kjölr||window – vindauga (lit. “wind-eye”)|
|link – hlenkr|
|aloft – á (on) + lopt (loft; sky; heaven)||freckles – freknur|
|ill – illr (bad)||foot –fótr|
|loose – lauss||girth – gjörð (circumference)|
|sly – sloegr||leg – leggr|
|scant – skamt (short, lacking)||skin – skinn (animal hide)|
|ugly – uggligr (dreadful)|
|weak – veikr|
|fellow – felagi||anger – angr (trouble, affliction)|
|guest – gestr||awe – agi (terror)|
|kid – kið (young goat)||happy – happ (good luck; fate)|
|lad – ladd (young man)||irk – yrkja (to work)|
|oaf – alfr (elf)|
Word of the Day : April 5, 2016
1 : the inflectional forms of a noun, pronoun, or adjective
2 : a falling off or away : deterioration
3 : descent, slope
The most common declension in modern English is the set of plural nouns marked as plural with a simple “-s.”
“You jump in and begin seeing and hearing simple words in the foreign language and start translating, learning nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech without memorizing declensions and without tears.” — Reid Kanaley, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 May 2016
Did You Know?
Declension came into English (via Middle French) in the first half of the 15th century, originating in the Latin verb declinare, meaning “to inflect” or “to turn aside.” The word seems to have whiled away its time in the narrow field of grammar until Shakespeare put a new sense of the word in his play Richard III in 1593: “A beauty-waning and distressed widow / … Seduc’d the pitch and height of his degree / To base declension and loath’d bigamy.” This “deterioration” sense led within a few decades to the newest sense of the word still in common use, “descent” or “slope.” The 19th century saw still another new sense of the word—meaning “a courteous refusal”—but that sense has remained quite rare.
Make it a Great Day!
1. a slightly disreputable barroom.
P. Dusenheimer, standing in the door of his uninviting groggery, when the trains stopped for water, never received from the traveling public any patronage except facetious remarks upon his personal appearance. – Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, 1873
A volleyball court seemed to occupy the confectioner’s shop, the confectioner was nearly on top of the bridal shop, and the bridal shop had insinuated itself into the groggery next door. – Lawrence Millman, “The Bay Islands,” Islands, February, 1994
Groggery is an Americanism formed on the basis of the word grog meaning “a strong alcoholic drink.” It entered English in the early 1800s.
1. pertaining to, situated in, or forming small or narrow spaces or intervals between things or parts.
2. Anatomy. situated between the cells of a structure or part: interstitial tissue.
1. Crystallography. an imperfection in a crystal caused by the presence of an extra atom in an otherwise complete lattice.
Philosophy should never have been purified. Rather than being seen as a problem, “dirty hands” should have been understood as the native condition of philosophic thought–present everywhere, often interstitial, essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature. Philosophy is a mangle. The philosopher’s hands were never clean and were never meant to be. – Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle, “When Philosophy Lost Its Way,” New York Times, January 11, 2016
We are come to a world within the world. In these alien reaches, these maugre sinks and interstitial wastes that the righteous see from carriage and car another life dreams. – Cormac McCarthy, Suttree, 1979
Interstitial derives from the Latin interstitium meaning “interstice” or “an intervening space.” It entered English in the mid-1600s.