November 09, 2011

Words for Victoria Regina

It is Wondrous Words Wednesday.  I do love this meme, I have to admit.  I just adore my native language, even if its spelling "system" resembles nothing so much as a drunken ramble through the vagaries of chaos theory.  Believe me, I do know all the historical reasons behind this; that doesn't change the fact that we have perhaps the least one-to-one phoneme/grapheme correspondence of any language spoken by humans.  (Bonus points for non-linguistics majors who can translate what I just said.  :>  Sorry; getting a degree in linguistics left me forever unable to speak like a normal, non-warped human being.)

ANYWAY, to bring myself back down to Earth with a decidedly humiliating *THUMP*, I have to confess that I had an embarrassing experience today.  A word I THOUGHT I'd known the definition of for years turned out to mean something completely different.  *Rolls eyes sheepishly at herself*

1.  ferrule--is NOT the stick used to discipline naughty school children of yesteryear, as I believed.  Rather, it is that metal endpiece on old-fashioned walking sticks that keeps gravel from biting into the wood.  It is also the band that clamps down and keeps all the bristles from falling out of paint brushes.  There are a few other, even less interesting uses, but those are the highlights.  This naturally segues into my next term.

2. "Penang lawyer"--I could tell from the context of Dr. Watson's sentence that this was some kind of cane, so Wiktionary wasn't terribly helpful in adding nothing to that knowledge but the type of wood from which it is made.  A picture would have been helpful.  Oh, well; never mind.

3.  dolichocephalic--Now THERE is a word you don't hear every day.  As a matter-of-fact, I should be rather astonished if I ever run across it again, except maybe in another Victorian or Edwardian mystery featuring a doctor.  According to Wiktionary, it literally means "long-headed," "having a head that is long from front to back."  Good luck working THAT into ordinary conversation!  Leave it to Holmes and Watson and their clients to come up with something like this.


  1. I've looked up ferrule before and remembered that it had something to do with walking sticks but I'm not sure I could have defined it. Your other words are totally new to me.

  2. HA! I just love your post, and I happen to know EXACTLY which Holmes and Watson adventure you are currently reading! I read it earlier in the year. Check out the WW post I did for it- I think you'll find it funny too......

  3. Never heard of these, thanks! for sharing.

  4. Ferrule is interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi,

    I did know what a ferrule is, but as for the other two words, they left me confused, but inquisitive.

    Dolichocephalic, is a word that you wouldn't want to come across too often. Such a deadful sounding word for a condition that isn't that terrible. Why are medical words in general so prone to making us feel worse than we need to, just by their sound?

    I was really intrigued by your 'Penang Lawyer' and after trawling around for a bit, came across this article:

    Unless you are well into walking sticks and canes it is a bit heavy reading, but about half way down the page, there is a picture of a 'Penang Lawyer' (it's a bit of a disappointment actually)

    Great post, made me think and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  6. Great new words! I didn't know any.
    I also wanted to agree on your view on English spelling (especially since I come from a mother tongue with very high phoneme/grapheme correspondence) -- and on how hard it is to speak normally after studying linguistics. My friends used to freak out when I started mentioning things like that, husband on the other hand has been trying to learn a little, and we are actually able to work linguistics into some kind on inside jokes, just for us...


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