This is a new thing I’m going to try, every Sunday. I’ve got so many books full of great words, and I so rarely have an excuse to delve into them. So I thought I’d give you a small selection of these lovely words once a week, in the hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. And for a little more interest, I’m going to go through the alphabet! So this week’s words will begin, predictably, with ‘A’.
Aposiopesis (noun): (in rhetoric) a sudden stop in and failure to complete a thought or sentence.
I was completely delighted to find this word, because I absolutely do this all the time. At least the next time I do, I can spend my moment in silence trying to remember the word ‘aposiopesis’ on top of the rest of my sentence.
Ariston: the Greek word for breakfast; Aristology: the study of breakfast; Aristologists: people who devote their lives to the pursuit of the perfect morning meal.
I mean, who doesn’t want to be the person who devotes their life to the pursuit of the perfect morning meal? And now you’ve got a word for it – you, my dear friend, are an aristologist.
Alpenglow: (mountaineering) light of the setting or rising sun seen illuminating high mountains or the underside of clouds.
Now, isn’t that a gorgeous image? And alpenglow is so evocative of the image of that light playing on mountains and clouds, I just love it.
Ashiepattle (noun): (Ireland, Scotland) From the days when real fires burned in homes – a child or domestic animal that lounges or works about the hearth, and thus gets covered in ash. The word is probably from ash-pit, with the -le adding a diminutive nuance – ‘little one’ – but with a tone of disgust rather than endearment. It seems to have been most often used in the very north of Scotland, in the Orkneys and Shetlands, and in Ireland it turns up as ashiepelt and ashypet. Cinderella was an ashypet.
I read the whole description of ashiepattie thinking ‘hey, that’s like Cinderella!’ – and then at the end, it turns out that David Crystal thought so too… Now I’m thinking I’d like to see a retelling of Cinderella set in Irish or Scottish history. Anyone?
Alula (noun): A group of small feathers that grows on the first digit of the wing of some birds. This pleasing little word is a diminutive of the Lating ala meaning ‘wing’ and refers to the point on modern birds’ wings which corresponds with a mammal’s thumb. This flight-control device is also, less pleasingly, known as a ‘bastard’ or ‘spurious’ wing.
And to end, this lovely word for a delicately beautiful thing. An alula grows on the bit of an animal’s wing where your thumb would be – ain’t that sweet?
If you’d like to make your own list in response, please link in the comments – I’d love to see them!
This week’s words were sourced from Foyle’s Philavery, collected by Christopher Foyle; The Disappearing Dictionary: A Treasury of Lost English Dialect Words by David Crystal; Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane.