I recently finished reading “The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through The Lost Words Of The English Language” by Mark Forsyth.

“The Horologicon” by Mark Forsyth (via Goodreads)

The book blurb reads as follows:

“The Horologicon (or book of hours) gives you the most extraordinary words in the English language, arranged according to the hour of the day when you really need them. Do you wake up feeling rough? Then you’re philogrobolized. Pretending to work? That’s fudgelling, which may lead to rizzling if you feel sleepy after lunch, though by dinner time you will have become a sparkling deipnosophist. From Mark Forsyth, author of the bestselling The Etymologicon, this is a book of weird words for familiar situations. From ante-jentacular to snudge by way of quafftide and wamblecropt, at last you can say, with utter accuracy, exactly what you mean.”

I love learning about the English Language, and this book shows so many different words which have been lost over time.

The book is set out like a normal day, starting with dawn and waking up, going through all the daily events such as meals, working, shopping, then ending with evenings out and going to sleep. For each action you take through the day, there is a lost word which has fallen out of use. For some of them you can see the reason why they’ve not so popular, while others make perfect sense but were still dropped in favour of the current word.

Some of my favourite discoveries in this book:

  • Guttle – when you ‘eat greedily’, as opposed to its more common counterpart Guzzle which is when you drink greedily! (pages 95-96)
  • Pingle – when you push your food around on your plate and not really eating it. (page 97)
  • Gongoozling – can mean “stare curiously” or “stare aimlessly”, but technically means “staring at canals” which apparently originates somewhere around Ulverston in the Lake District (near to where i’m from)! (page 106)
  • Vomitorium – apparently not what it sounds like (a place where you throw up!) but is actually a passage by which you can exit a building such as a theatre! (page 143)

There are many fascinating words in this book, and many of them explain how the words which we know and use today evolved. What is pretty amazing is just how many words and phrases there are for “being drunk”! There is an Appendix with about 3 pages devoted to these words! A few examples you may not know included: “[he] has been catching the cat“, “[he’s] chickenny“, “[he] has frozen his mouth“, “[he’s] an indirect man“, “the King is his cousin“, and “it is star light with him“!

I give it 9/10 because it is really interesting discovering all these old words and the sheer amount of words which have fallen out of use. I think it’s a shame that some of the really appropriate words are no longer used for what they describe! Worth a read, even if you just dip in and out every now and then! (which i certainly did, as i started it in about April and only finished it around November!)

Note: the next book by Forsyth is already available and is called “The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase”.


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