Words for the Week: K

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. This week’s words begin with ‘K’. 

Kakistocracy (noun): A system of government in which the rulers are the least competent, least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

*whistles innocently*

Kalopsia (noun): A condition in which things appear more beautiful than they really are.

Examples include: your own kids/pets/partners, and being drunk. Apparently, scientists have decided that romantic and maternal love suppress brain activity associated with criticism and negative feelings. After some thought, I’ve decided it’s cute.

Keffel (noun): Herefordshire, Scotland, Shropshire, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire. An old or inferior horse; a big clumsy man or beast; anything of inferior quality. Originates from Welsh ceffyl, meaning ‘horse’.

The reason I like this word is that it sounds like tripping over – no real impact, but a sort of scuffle-for-one. I like the idea of clumsy people and animals being labelled with the sound they make when they stumble.

Kobnoggle (verb): Lancashire. To pull the hair and then hit the head with the knuckles. From a combination of cob ‘head’ and knock or nobble. Evidently an ancient Lancastrian rite of passage.

We hardly ever have a verb! I’m quite excited. I’m super glad that David decided to add that last sentence in there, otherwise this would have been very confusing – it’s a very specific word for a very specific action.

Keld (noun): Northern England. Deep, still, smooth part of a river.

First of all, I think we’ve established by now that I like water words. But secondly, the reason why I’m including this one is that it’s one letter away from ‘kelda’ – the matriarchal leader of Terry Pratchett’s Nac Mac Feegles. Only this morning, I was reading something that said that it feels like Terry Pratchett’s books are treasure hunts through language and history. I assume that the real origin of ‘kelda’, if indeed it is a Terry Pratchett original, is a Scottish dialect word. But I like the idea that it’s connected to keld. The kelda must be wise and thoughtful to lead her band of tiny criminal sons and brothers-in-law. And there’s something about the deep, still, smooth part of the river that evokes that feeling.

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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