Words I’m Learning

I like to think that I know English better than the average bear. Yet despite that, I still come across words that confound me. Because I have been trained well by my father and grandmother Kilker, I reach for the online Oxford English Dictionary for clarification. This post will be updated periodically with the words I’ve looked up that are particularly odd, funny, or whatnot. Especially whatnot.

clunch. (n.) a lump, a heavy and unshapely mass.

  • Whence: I came across this one when reading about Devil’s Dyke, Cambridgeshire and the type of hard chalk in the area, which is called clunch. The connotative negative meanings mean this will be a useful alternative swear word for my vocabulary, especially since it has such a nice guttural sound.
  • Etymology:  The Low German klunt , Dutch klont ‘lump, clod, heavy and awkward mass, clown’, etc., which is explained etymologically as a nasalized derivative of the root which gave cleat , clot , clout (Old Germanic *klunt- , < klut -), must apparently have formerly been used in the same sense in English (where it still lingers dialectally in restricted use), as is evidenced by numerous derivatives,clunter n., etc. 

hendiadys. (n.) a figure or speech in which a single complex idea is expressed by two words connected by a conjunction.

  • whence: While reading about the macaronic poem Aldhelm, which was written in Old English, Latin, and transliterated Greek. Whitbread’s discussion of the “reasonably coherent and consistent sense” of the text used “ponus et pondus” (toil and weight) as an example of this common rhetorical technique in Latin poetry.
  • etymology: Latinized form of the Greek phrase ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hèn dià duoîn, “one through two.”

turves. (n.)  plural of “turf,” a slab from the surface of the soil with the grass and herbage growing on it. . . .

  • whence: In Michael Swanton’s translation of Gesta Herewardi, King William’s soldiers fortify the riverbank with turves. Since I’ve seen some strange military terminology before, I couldn’t figure it out. Now I know.
  • etymology:  Old English turf feminine consonant stem (genitive-dative singular and nominative-accusative plural tyrf): Common Germanic (with variation of gender and declension) < Indo-European *drbh : compare Sanskrit darbhá tuft of grass, < drbh to make into tufts, string together.