Friday, 24 October 2014



Noun plural. Late 20th century.
[Blend of DIGITAL and LITERATI.]

People with expertise or professional involvement in information technology.

I used to think that being a blogger meant I could rightly call myself a member of the digerati, but the words professional and expertise rule me entirely.  Ah well. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

D'you Mind if I Didgeridoo?

Photo by Graham Crumb


Noun. Also didjeridoo, didgeridu. Early 20th century.
[Aboriginal of imitative origin.]

A long tubular wooden musical instrument of the
Australian Aborigines which is blown to produce a resonant sound.

Didgeridoo makes Lexi just because I like the sound of the word and the sound of the instrument, which makes sense as it's apparently a word of imitative origin. If you're not sure about the didgeridoo, then maybe Adèle and Zalem will change your mind. Enjoy!

Do please leave your most austral comments in the box below.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Diddums - Aww! Did It Hurt?

I don't know what's happened here, but saying 'Diddums!" will make it worse
(photo by La Fine Soltanto)


Interjection & noun. Late 19th century.
[from did 'em, i.e. 'did they' (sc. 'tease you' etc.).]

(A form of address to young children and jocularly to adults) expressing commiseration or endearment.

I nearly got into a fight over the word diddums once. I was cycling with friends through a rather rough estate in Oxford (yes! Oxford has rough estates), and I took a corner a bit too fast on my BMX and skidded off, skittering across the tarmac in a dramatic but very painful fashion. I was back on my feet, wincing at my torn 501s and bleeding leg, when a boy in a leather jacket taunted me from across the street: "Aww. Diddums! Did you hurt yourself? Did it hurt? Aww! Diddums!"

Now, I've never been one that's easily moved to anger, but that really got me. In fact, I would go so far as to say it enraged me! And suddenly I found myself sizing up to a boy considerably bigger and older than me, with the standard chest-shoves and shoulder-thrusts and back-and-forths: "C'mon then! Yeah! You wanna 'ave a go! Let's go then! Yeah? C'mon! 'Ave a go then if you think yer 'ard enough!"

Anyway, my point is this: diddums, whilst it may sound like a mild enough provocation, actually has the power to infuriate the mildest of souls. Fortunately, we both tired of the histrionics and parted ways, hurling insults as we went, without it actually coming to blows; I then went home (as I had really, really hurt myself) where my Mum patiently picked the bits of gravel out of my leg ... and possibly kissed it better ... I don't remember exactly.

Seriously, though, I could've 'ad him, I could.

Have you ever got into a testosterone-fuelled brawl over the word diddums?
(I say testosterone, but I was about 8, so that wasn't it in my case)

Do please leave your most sympathetic comments in the box below.
(It really hurt! There was blood and everything! And my favourite jeans!)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dictionary - A Few Words (On Why I Love It)

My secondary school made us read dictionaries as a punishment. Seriously. Talk about rewarding bad behaviour!
Photo by Caleb Roenigk


Noun. Early 16th century.
[medieval Latin dictionarium and dictionarius), from Latin dictio(n)-.]

Branch I
1(a) A book explaining or translating, usually in alphabetical order, words of a language or languages,
giving their pronunciation, spelling, meaning, part of speech, and etymology, or one or some of these. E16

1(b) obsolete. The vocabulary or whole list of words used or admitted by someone. L16-E18

1(c) An ordered list stored in and used by a computer; especially a list of words acceptable to a word processor. M20

2 A book of information or reference on any subject in which the entries are arranged alphabetically. M17

Branch II
3 figurative. A person or thing regarded as a repository of knowledge, convenient for consultation. E17

The smallest dictionary I own
(and one of my favourites)
I've loved dictionaries for as long as I can remember. As a child and into my twenties, I was in the habit of always carrying a dictionary around with me, just in case I came across a word I didn't know. At my wedding, my best man gave a speech in which he said he hoped a dictionary would fall on my head; later that night, he tried to sneak into my room to take the Collins Dictionary I had stashed in my luggage, lest I take a dictionary with me on my honeymoon. Yes, I really like dictionaries, and it seems I've developed a bit of a reputation for it.

People often ask me why I love dictionaries so much. Specifically, why dictionaries? Why not, say, encyclopaedias? Or books generally? I do love encyclopaedias, and I am a bibliophile, but it's true that I have a particular affection for the dictionary, an affection quite distinct from my love of words and language. Dictionaries, you see, are unique; they are singularly fascinating works of unfathomable human endeavour and investigation; dictionaries are windows, offering knowledge and the promise of knowledge. With the dictionary, one can peer into the future as well as one can peer into the past.

For anyone that's unconvinced about the beauty of a dictionary (and I do get a lot of unconvinced looks when explaining my love), I would encourage, nay, challenge you to sit down with a good dictionary and read it for twenty minutes. It doesn't even matter which dictionary. Obviously I'm rather loyal to the Oxford English Dictionary, but there are numerous quality dictionaries out there: Collins, Merriam-Webster and Chambers to cite a few of my favourites. Sit down, take that time, and read it. Perhaps you could look up that word or phrase you've always wondered about. Why do we say someone is about to get their just deserts?  If one can be disgruntled, can one also be gruntled? Or, like me, you could just relax and read away, allowing the pages to lead you wherever they may go. However you approach it, I've no doubt that you will be pleasantly surprised, and maybe ... just maybe ... you'll get hooked like me.

My desk. Looking unusually tidy. And with only two of my dictionaries present.
Do please dictate your most lexical comments in the box below.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Dick - Well Spotted

This was not a pleasant picture to find
(photo by Chuck Coker)


Noun. In sense 2, uncapitalised. Mid-16th century.
[Male forename, playful alteration of Richard from Anglo-Norman Ricard, Latin Ricardus, whence Richard (of which it is used as a familiar abbreviation).]

1 A man, a fellow; a lad. Frequently with qualifying adjective. M16

2 The penis. coarse slang. L18

Yes, yes ... you're thinking: "Oh Lexicolatry! Again covering the bawdier words of the English language!" For one moment, however, roll your eyes back into the forward position and consider with me why dick is an interesting word, and whether it's actually rude at all. Well, in the right (or wrong) context, yes, of course it's rude; the OED specifically labels it as 'coarse slang'. Its rudeness is curious, though, in that it's not absolute; unlike many other swearwords, there are occasions when we suddenly shift backward 400 years, to a time when it wasn't rude at all, and you could bandy dick about willy-nilly without a care in the world.

Take the phrase Tom, Dick & Harry, for example, meaning 'anyone'; I could use that phrase in the most polite of company without so much as making a nun blush. Detectives have been called dicks, and an old person might complain of having a dicky heart. And if I described someone down the pub as a clever dick, it would elicit little more than a wry smile - just imagine if I threw that out on a Saturday night without the qualifying word clever. And as for that most delicious of English desserts, does anyone even think of anything untoward when served a delicious bowl of steaming spotted dick? Well, actually, yes, they do; even the straightest of laces can't help but smirk when that one's plopped on the table.

Do you know of any other non-rude dicky terms?

Can you use them without smirking?

Do please leave any comments in the box below.