Unhealthy nerdiness

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People have accused me, usually while playing a game like Boggle, of reading the dictionary. This is simply not true. I've never read a dictionary from cover to cover. However, I do have a wee bit of an obsession with reference works, including lexica. Looking a word up in the dictionary usually takes me four times as long as normal folks. I get stranded learning what words like "bemow" (to mock with grimaces), "tope" (to drink, esp. habitually or copiously), or "sturt" (contention, violent quarelling) mean. I think the problem that my word game opponents have is that I remember these words. So, even when it looks like I'm making up a word I can actually give something that is near the real definition. Like ret, ort and poi, all of which I've used, had questioned and been vindicated by dictionaries. However, sometimes I really do just make up words. One of my favourite is "zito", the supposed singular of ziti, the pasta shape (actually, according to the OED, the singular is zita, but I'll still try to steal zit every time an o comes up in anagrams).

Dictionaries can also be used for dirty ends. Like looking up the naughty words, or better yet, stumbling over naughty words you didn't know. Like "tribade", which means lesbian and comes from the Greek word 'to rub'. Isn't that lovely? Or what about "ephebophile" as an insult? I mean, it's not pedophilia entirely, but it's not right, either. (an ephebophile is a gay man who is attracted to adolescents).

However, all these musings arose for a background for a new preposition I learned. Now, prepositions may not be exactly the most elegant of words (we all know that's the verbs, though the nouns are getting a bit uppity these days), but it's so rare to learn a new one. But I learned two new ones today, both decidedly domestic: but and ben. I think I'll let the OED speak for itself:

The words but and ben have special reference to the structure of dwelling houses formerly prevalent in the north, in which there was only one outer door, so that it was usual to enter through the kitchen into the parlour, and through the latter to an inner chamber, bedroom, or the like. In reference to the kitchen, the two latter rooms are ben and far-ben respectively; they constitute the ben-end of the house: in reference to the parlour, the kitchen is but, or but the house, or the but end. These phrases are retained even in more modern houses, where the parlour has a separate entrance: ‘go but’ = ‘go into the kitchen’; ‘come ben’ = come into the parlour, etc. Also apartments on opposite sides of a passage are said to be but and ben with each other, though neither is farther out or farther in than the other: come ben, go but are then used of either. Their occupants are said to live but and ben with each other
Who wouldn't love learning stuff like that? Now, I have to go clean my apartment, both but and ben.

1 comments:

Anni said...

Nimnles. You do it, too.

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