Friday, June 12, 2015

Printchers, stridulumps, inklejacks, and lunt-takers

I'll bet you've all been talking about pelmets lately. Why wouldn't you be? "Pelmet", as everyone knows, is that word for "those things that cover curtain tops". Though no-one calls them "curtain top covers", because why would anyone call curtain top covers "curtain top covers" when a perfectly wonderful word like "pelmet" exists?

"Pelmet" is not the only word of that sort we have in English; our language is large and commodious and accommodates words for nose blowers ("handkerchiefs"), personal car parking spaces ("garages"), houses for dogs ("kennels"), and so on and so on and so on. All perfectly lovely words, I'm sure, and we've all had call for them from time to time.

But a revelation struck me the other day when I was looking for the bottle opener: the bottle opener, as everyone knows, even if they don't particularly want to open a bottle at this time, is just called the "bottle opener". It's as if English - which had previously furnished itself with wonderful words such as "pelmet" and "balustrade" and "banister" and "sprocket" - had run out of space, or just couldn't bother anymore, or something. I'm not quite sure why, as bottle openers could have a superb word with a little effort: "Unbeflambulator", perhaps, or "Inklejack". Nor is the bottle opener the only item to have missed out on its own word in English: what about toilet roll holders ("printchers"?)

"Door knob", I confess to being a perfectly lovely literal description of the knobs that you find on doors, so perhaps in cases such as this we will not wish to come up with a word: but what of other important concepts, such as the bits of pillows that slip out of the pillowcasing ("Dilmitties")? Or the bits on long-sleeved shirts that hold your elbows ("sprills")? Veering into the slightly more esoteric, ought we not consider the stripes on zebras ("zilps"?) or the spots on giraffes ("stridulumps"?) Or, for that matter, the satisfied sounds animals make when they go to bed - perhaps cats "uzzle", and dogs "wumper"?

It is certainly not a matter of lack of invention or inattention to specific details: English once had a word for "walking while smoking a pipe" - "lunting" - which sounds so wonderful that I want to get myself a pipe now.

I could go on with more examples of detailed concepts English needs specific words for, but I think you get the idea. I will therefore leave you all with a concept for you to find a word for -

"the sound made when a man meditatively strokes his beard"

- and a word looking for a concept to describe:


Love to hear what everyone's suggestions are! In the meantime, I'm off for a lunt!

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