Lost For Words

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

One morning in May I was listening to a BBC interview on CBC One. As they were finishing the program the BBC’s reporter said, “Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed.” It occurred to me that I cannot remember the last time I used the word ‘indeed’ in a sentence. Come to think of it, I may never have used the word in my whole life. ‘Heretofore’ is another, as is the expression ‘I believe it must be my round’ which I have never used and doubt if I ever will.

I started to think of a few other words and phrases we see written once in a while, mainly in legal contracts or in the fine print of your credit card contract, but are rarely ever spoken. ‘Seize your house’, ‘draw and quarter’ and ‘dismember’ are fine examples of that.

While trying to find a few other words I have never used, I stumbled across an interesting website. It was not about words that are rarely used, but words that were once part of everyday language but just disappeared from common use for one reason or another.

How about ‘cockalorum’, a word from the early 1700s? We all know one or two people who fit the description. “He is a boastful short-arse, a total cockalorum.” It means, a little man with a high opinion of himself.

(What? That’s enough out of you, Mary.)

‘Groak’ is a good one. That is when someone is staring at you while you are eating. Don’t you hate that? I’m ashamed to say I groak people all the time. It’s almost always in a restaurant when the guy at the next table ordered the dish I thought about, but chickened out because it sounded icky, and went for the hot beef sandwich instead.

“Can I have just a bite of your Peking duck? I was going to order it but I don’t like eating something that is staring back at me from under a side plate.”

 ‘Callipygian,’ now that is a dandy word. I have never used it only because I had never heard it. It showed up in 1610 and means ‘having beautifully-shaped buttocks’, as in “I admire Beyoncé for her musical talent. The fact she is highly callipygian is neither here nor there.” I’ve never taken a close look at her bottom whenever she is on TV, an oversight that will be corrected at the earliest opportunity I assure you.

Just one more word and we can move on – well maybe three. How about ‘curmuring’? It should be the most common word in our vocabulary since it happens all the time. Not to me, of course, but to everyone else. Well, all right, once to me, but I covered it up with a fake sneezing fit. It is not only accurate but it is also a never-ending source of embarrassment for most of us whether we like to admit or not. ‘Curmuring’ is that low rumbling noise made by our bowels, usually at the most inopportune moment when all is quiet. The word has been around since the 1800s. Apparently a curmuring never happened before that, which I find surprising since a light snack for Henry VIII was an ox, a half-dozen grouse and an eel pie. It is amazing Henry’s ‘curmuring’ didn’t wake up the City of London.

“What in hell was that noise, Sir Percy? I fear it is a tsunami coming up the Thames. Where are my rubber boots?”

“Don’t worry about it, Nigel. It’s just old Henry again. Whatever you do don’t stand behind him.”

Think of poor Anne Boleyn; she had to sleep with him. (I think she must have complained about his curmuring once too often and ended up with ‘er ‘ead tucked underneath ‘er arm

How many times have you been trying to impress someone, a job interview perhaps, or worse on that critical first date and for no particular reason your stomach goes ‘oyoyoyoy’?

“Will you marry me, Grace?”

“I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that. Apparently the sink just unclogged itself. Now what was that about carrying you?”

‘Curglaff’, a quaint expression from Scotland in the 1800s hardly covers the extent of the pain involved when a man encounters it. ‘Curglaff’ is the shock one feels upon first plunging his private accoutrements into ice cold water. The word ‘Curglaff’ simply isn’t adequate for the occasion. Usually the experience involves shouting the name of one’s Lord and Saviour followed by unbelievable agony and sometimes months of sterility. On the plus side, the wife can forget about birth control pills for a while, possibly forever.  Indeed!

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