The Horologicon: Work up an Appetite for Weird and Wonderful Words

Mark Forsyth, number one bestselling author of The Etymologicon and creator of the Inky Fool Blog has now brought us The Horologicon, a day in the life of the lost and unusual words of the English language, right the way from the Old English uhtceare (‘lying awake before dawn and worrying’) through to the myoclonic jerk (the little twitch right before you fall asleep).

The book won’t be out until the 1st November but here is a small taste to whet you appetite:

1p.m. Lunch

It is the amell, which is to say the hour between one and two o’clock when all right-thinking creatures rush joyously from their labours to their lunch.  You hardly need a clock to know that this grand hour is at hand, as your own belly will chime with impatient borborygmi, the rumbling noises produced by an empty stomach. H.G. Wells once wrote that:

 …few creatures seem to have found their ‘perfect’ food, or having found it, are able to keep to it: elephant hunters say they can tell the proximity of a herd by the borborygmic (see dictionary) noises the poor brutes emit, and Glasfurd describes a tiger’s life as an alternation of uncomfortable hunger and uncomfortable repletion.

 Better, as the saying goes, to live one day as an uncomfortable tiger, than a hundred years as a borborygmic elephant.  The human is a famelicose (or constantly hungry) creature. And so to lunch!

But where? It seems a shame to visit the same sandwich shop every day, and anyway, you might be taking somebody out to lunch on expenses.  Even if you are denied this fundamental right of luncheon by fate or your boss, you may simply be struck with a sudden case of allotriophagy, which is ‘the desire, – the morbid longing, – to devour extraordinary substances commonly regarded as inedible, innutritious, or even harmful. It is thus a suitable term for anybody who suggests going to a kebab shop. Etymologically, though, it simply means a desire to eat other things, and it can therefore be used to break away from the old haunts rather than go to the same slap-bang shop:

 Slap-bang shop, a petty cook’s shop where there is no credit given, but what is had must be paid down with the ready slap-bang, i.e. immediately. This is a common appellation for a night cellar frequented by thieves, and sometimes for a stage coach or caravan. (1785)

Enjoy your lunch! If you are local to Cambridge and would like to see more of Mark Forsyth, come along to the talk he is giving at Heffers on Thursday 15th November at 6.30pm.

Tickets are £3 and can be redeemed against purchases of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon. Refreshments will be provided.  You can buy tickets at Heffers or over the phone on 01223 463 220.

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