What an extraordinary week the first week of lockdown turned out to be. We have become so used to catastrophe with this ‘camorra’ of a government (a group united for nefarious or traitorous ends), that this week’s ‘eucatastrophes’ (sudden fortuitous events) will have come as a surprise.
Perhaps you became a ‘mouse potato’, spending far too much time on your computer waiting for votes to be counted in the US election, and experienced a frisson of delight watching CNN and seeing ‘pseudologue’ (pathological liar) politicians being called out. Hurrah for the chance to return to decent, sane politics with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris!
The situation in the US gave us hope, even as our own ‘unasinous’ government (united in stupidity) forged on with their ‘schnapsidee’ policies (crazy or impractical idea that seems ingenious when you’re drunk). There were plenty of inanimate cats floating about in the national press, which is why I’ve chosen the word ‘chatoyant’ – cat-like – as one of this week’s words). One of the more bizarre incidents was Boris Johnson’s proposal to create ‘mountweazel’ briefings (fictitious entries added to a book to trap would-be plagiarists) to catch out anybody leaking information from top-secret policy meetings. Is the prime minister (PM) suffering from an acute case of ‘proditomania’? That’s the irrational belief that everyone around you is a traitor, or the unnerving feeling that you’re surrounded by people out to get you.
If the PM was suffering a bout of proditomania, it will only have been made worse by the sudden departure of his ‘morosoph’ communications chief (a learned fool, or one who puts up the pretense of knowledge or wisdom), Lee Cain. This particular ‘caitiff’ (despicable person) originally rose to infamy for following David Cameron around dressed as a chicken. He has done infinite harm, turning No.10 into a sewer of fake news. As if Cain’s departure wasn’t dramatic enough, Johnson’s ‘vulpine factotum’ (crafty and cunning person serving in diverse capacities), Dominic Cummings, followed him out the door.
These two ‘smurkish shonkeys’ (shady characters; a shonkey is literally a sheep crossed with a donkey) have done more to push a ‘maximalist’ (uncompromising adherence to extreme demands) approach to their Brexit ‘cacodoxy’ (bad doctrine), at the expense of the country. Perhaps there is now a window of opportunity for good sense to prevail — at long last. Only a fiendish government would inflict the end of transition on us in the midst of a lethal pandemic, in mid-winter — especially when we are clearly so unprepared for what will be a brutal change in trade conditions.
Looking forward in hope, here is this week’s daily compilation of:
- A political word to vent our frustrations with our elected representatives;
- A short Shakespearian quote that has passed into common usage, to remind us how much of a debt we owe to him for the expansion and embellishment of our language (and because I suffer from bardolatry);
- An exquisite word from our beautiful language, and
- A ‘mood’ word to help us focus on the positives in life.
Here are the seven compilations for the second week of this four-week lockdown.
Zugzwang – when it’s your move, but there is no move you can make which won’t make your situation worse (German; from chess).
“Lord, how this world is given to lying.”
Henry IV part 1, Act 5, scene 4
Apricity – the feeling of warmth from direct sunlight on a cold winter’s day.
Halcyon – think of a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.
Bayard: one blind to the light of knowledge, who has all the self-confidence of ignorance (16th century).
“I would have peace and quietness, but the fool will not.”
Troilus & Cressida Act II, scene 1
Diaphanous – light, delicate, and translucent. Used especially to describe fabric.
Petrichor – the unique, comforting smell of rain hitting scorched earth. A relatively modern word derived from the Greek for ‘petro-‘, rock, and ‘ichor’, the ethereal fluid said to flow like blood through the veins of the gods.
Cacafuego – a blustering, swaggering braggart (from the Spanish for ‘fire-shitter’, after a prize 16th-century galleon, captured by Sir Francis Drake despite its apparently impressive armoury).
“Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops”
Romeo & Juliet Act III, scene 5
Aurora – the Dawn
Serene – calm, peaceful, untroubled and calm.
Aeolist – a pompous person, pretending to have inspiration or spiritual insight —someone who likes to think they’re one of God’s A-listers, like Jacob Rees-Mogg.
“Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
Pray to the gods to intermit the plague”
Julius Caesar, Act I, scene 1
Persiflage – frivolous, light-hearted talk
Relaxed – free from tension and anxiety
Titanolatry – worship of, or excessive respect for, power.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act III, scene 2
Chatoyant – like a cat’s eye
Hygge – a Danish word that has no direct English equivalent. It’s a combination of cosiness and companionship and happiness and warmth.
Whiffler – one who whiffles, that is, blows this way and that without sticking to one course of action, is evasive and/or forever changing their mind (1500s).
“How look I,
That I should seem to lack humanity?”
Cymbeline, Act III, Scene 2
Flocculent – having or resembling tufts of wool
Fresh – try something new and different
Slobberhannes – a person or animal with messy or untidy habits, especially a sloppy eater or drinker.
“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!”
Tempest, Act V scene 1
Gossamer – a fine, filmy substance consisting of cobwebs spun by small spiders, seen especially in autumn.
Whimsical – playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way.
With thanks to I CAN children’s charity, The Oxford English Dictionary, The Thesaurus, The Phrontistery, Open Source Shakespeare and, particularly for political terms, the always amusing tweets of locution-queen Susie Dent (@susie_dent).
If you missed last week’s weird and wonderful words, you can find them ‘here’.