Words for the Week


Hello again, folks! Welcome to another episode of Words for the Week, which happens every Sunday. I have so many books full of great words, and I so rarely have an excuse to delve into them. So I’m putting together 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 through the alphabet! So this week’s words begin with ‘H’. 

Haver (verb): 1. to talk nonsense; to babble. 2. to vacillate, hesitate over a decision.

For those who were wondering exactly what the Proclaimers were promising when they sang 500 Miles, here’s a good word.

Heteric (adjective): (of word spellings) not phonetic.

One of my general themes in this series seems to be ‘words you never knew you needed’. I very much appreciate that there’s a word for non-phonetic words – especially given that so many English-language words are heretic!

Havey-cavey (adjective): Cumberland, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire. Unsteady, uncertain, doubtful, all in confusion. The formation is like ‘higgledy-piggledy’ and other reduplicating compounds, and is recorded in a wide range of pronunciations and spellings.

I really love words that are almost onomatopoeia – there’s no actual sound to mimic, but havey-cavey is just so good for the sound your brain wants to make to express uncertainty. The fact that it’s such a widely-used dialect word seems to indicate that lots of other people think so too.

Holloway (noun): Dorset. Lane or path that has been grooved down into the surrounding landscape due to the erosive power of, variously, feet, wheels and rainwater.

Have you ever walked in a holloway? The sound deadens, as bird song or road noise is choked by the vegetation and steep sides of the path. The world feels smaller, older, simpler. You could be the only people left in existence. You could be on your way to anywhere.

Haar (noun): Cornwall, north-east England, eastern Scotland. Misty rain that drifts in from the sea, often reaching several miles inland.

Hold up, guys. We’ve found it. The most gorgeous word in the English language. It’s so incredible evocative, I get a chill every time I say it. It sounds so exactly like the sea breathing gently on the land, breathing mist over the shore. In ‘Cover Your Eyes’ by Karine Polwart (a beautiful song in its own right), it has this magnetic power. (You should actually give all her music a listen, while we’re here. Stunning.) The haar will stumble in, to cover your eyes. 

This week’s words were sourced from Foyle’s Philavery, collected by Christopher Foyle; Landmarks by Robert McFarlane; The Disappearing Dictionary by David Crystal.

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