Quobbled

If your hands and fingers become quobbled, should you be worried?

Quobbled is an dialect word from Wiltshire in the south west of England that means wrinkly – so there would be no need to worry, it’s just a temporary phenomenon.

Mike's wrinkly hands

According to Words and Phrases from the Past, quobbled is defined as:

quobbled, adj. of a woman’s hands: shrivelled and wrinked from being too long in the washtub (English dialect)

Another definition is found in A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Wiltshire
By George Edward Dartnell, and Edward Hungerford Goddard (1893):

quobble. n. and v. After being a long while in the washtub a woman’s hands are apt to get ‘all in a quobble,’ or ‘ter’ble quobbled,’ that is, shrivelled and drawn and wrinkled up.

In Joseph Wright’s 1903 book, The English dialect dictionary, being the complete vocabulary of all dialect words still in use, or known to have been in use during the last two hundred years; founded on the publications of the English Dialect Society and on a large amount of material never before printed. (they really went in for short, snappy title back then), we find:

quobble, v. Of water: to make a noise in boiling

Then there’s:

quob, sb. and v.
1. A marshy spot; a bog, quagmire; a quicksand.
2. all of a quob, in a mess; in a heap; a bad bruise
3. an unfirm layer of fat
4. A throb; a palpitation
5. v. To quiver like jelly; to throb, to palpitate

Related words include:

  • quobby = marshy, boggy, flabby, wanting solidity
  • quobmire, sb. a quagmire

Apparently quob comes from the East Friesian kwabbeln / kwobbeln (to tremble, vibrate). This is probably related to the West Frisian word kwab (weak, blubbery mass of fat or flesh; very fat person; brain lobe; jellyfish) [Source], and the Dutch word kwabbig (flabby, squishy) [Source]

Some other interesting words from Wiltshire dialect include:

  • dumbledore / dumble = the humble-bee
  • gigletting = fond of rough romping; wanton
  • lottle = to sound as water trickling in a small stream
  • muddle-fuss = a persistent meddler with other people’s affairs
  • to womble = to wobble about from weakness

Source: A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Wiltshire.

Climbing Up

The other day I came across an interesting Dutch word – klimop [‘klɪ.mɔp], which means ivy (Hedera helix).

Ivy

It comes from opklimmen (to climb up, become greater, become larger), and literally means “climb-up”, which seems like a good name for a plant the climbs up walls and other things [source].

Klimop also features in Afrikaans, and similar words are used in Low German (Klimmop) and Papiamentu (klemòk) [source].

Klimmen (to climb, go up) comes from the Middle Dutch climmen (to climb, rise, to go up, increase), from the Old Dutch *climban (to climb), from the Proto-Germanic *klimbaną (to climb) [source].

The English word climb comes from the same root, via the Middle English climben [ˈkliːmbən/ˈklimbən] (to climb, scale, ascend, soar), and the Old English climban [ˈklim.bɑn] (to climb). In Late Middle English the b was no longer pronounced, so climben became [ˈkliːmən/ˈklimən]. Then the i became a diphthong and the -en ending fell off, resulting in the pronunciation [klaɪm] [source].

The English word ivy comes from the Middle English ivi (ivy), from the Old English īfiġ [ˈiː.vij] (ivy), from the Proto-Germanic *ibahs (ivy), from the Proto-Indo-European *(h₁)ebʰ- [source].

From the same root we get words for ivy in Danish (efeu), German (Efeu) and Norwegian (eføy) [source], and words for yew (trees) in Celtic languages, including iúr in Irish and iubhar in Scottish Gaelic [more details]

Fences

There are various words in Dutch for fence, and apparently the new wooden fence in my garden (see below) is a schutting [ˈsxʏ.tɪŋ], which is definied as “a (usually wooden) solid, or nearly solid, barrier separating two pieces of land; fence” or in Dutch “gewoonlijk dichte afscheiding tussen twee tuinen, stukken land, windvang” [source].

New fence / Ffens newydd

Schutting comes from schutten (to stop, hold back, protect, cover), from the Proto-Germanic *skutjaną (to shoot, dash), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)kewd- (to drive, fall upon, rush) [source]. The English word shoot comes from the same root [source].

Related words include beschutting (shelter, cover, board) and schuttingtaal (obscene / foul language).

Other Dutch words for fence include:

  • afrastering = fence, lattice, barricade – any kind of fence of wooden, metal, wire or mesh
  • heg = hedge, fence, hedgerow – hedge or wooden fence
  • hek = fence, gate – wooden or metal fence with spaces between the upright parts
  • hekwerk = fence, fencing, trellis – any type of fence
  • heler = fence – middleman for transactions of stolen goods
  • omheining = fence, enclosure, perimeter – any type of fence

The notes are based on Google image searches.

Incidentally, someone who remains neutral, does not have an opinion about something, or does not want to commit to something is known as a fence sitter, or someone who sits on the fence. One equivalent in Dutch is op het hek te zitten (“to sit on the fence/gate”). In Welsh a person who does this is known as Sioni bob ochr (“Johnny every side”), or eisteddwr pen clawdd (“hedge sitter”).

What about in other languages?

Steering Club

The other day I came across the Dutch word stuurknuppel [ˈstyːrˌknʏ.pəl] and had to find out where it comes from. I also rather like the sound of it.

Competition Pro

Stuurknuppel means joystick, stick or controls, particularly in an aeroplane. It comes from sturen [ˈstyːrə(n)] (to steer, guide, send), and knuppel [ˈknʏpəl], which means a club, cudgel or other blunt instrument, and also a clown, lout or awkward individual [source].

Sturen comes from the Middle Dutch sturen (to steer, direct, lead), from the Old Dutch stiuren, from the Proto-Germanic *stiurijaną (to direct, steer). The English word steer comes from the same root, as do related words in other Germanic languages [source].

Some related words include:

  • fietsstuur = handlebars
  • stuurhuis = wheelhouse, pilothouse
  • stuurhut = wheelhouse, cockpit, flight deck
  • stuurstang = handlebar, steering rod
  • stuurwiel = steering wheel
  • gummiknuppel = truncheon, baton
  • honkbalknuppel = baseball bat

Unreliable Wool

If your thinking is woolly, it is unclear, fuzzy, hazy, confused, vague, cloudy and/or confused and irrational, and you base it more on emotions rather than logic. You might be said to be woolly-headed or woolly-minded. For those of you who use American English, just ignore the second l in woolly [source].

Highland cows / Bò Ghàidhealach / Hielan coo

If you like to do a bit of woolgathering, then you either gather tufts of wool caught on bushes, are absentminded, or like to indulge in idle fancies and daydreams [source].

In Dutch the word wollig [ˈʋɔ.ləx] means woolly, fluffy, fuzzy, and also vague, unclear or muddy (tone) [source].

In Welsh, one word for woolly is gwlanog [ˈɡwlanɔɡ], which also means fleecy, unshorn, downy, woollen, and a well-off or well-to-do person. There are more sheep than people in Wales and owning a lot of them was probably a sign of prosperity in the past.

A related Welsh word gwlanen [ˈɡwlanɛn], which means a flannel or face-cloth, and also a man of weak character, one who lacks backbone, and a spineless or unreliable person, gwlanennog means flannel-like, soft and also weak-willed, without backbone, unreliable or spineless [source].

So a well-off person who is spineless would be a gwlanog gwlanennog.

You can find more woolly words in Celtic languages in today’s Celtiadur post.

Incidentally, the English word flannel comes ultimately from *wlanā, a Gaulish word meaning wool, via Old French and Norman [source].

Are there any interesting wool-related expressions in other languages?

Funny Grips

One of the Dutch words I learnt recently is grappig [ˈɣrɑ.pəx], which means funny or amusing. It comes from grap [ɣrɑp] (a joke or prank), and is related to grijpen [ˈɣrɛi̯pə(n)] (to grap, seize, intervene), which comes from the Middle Dutch gripen (to grab, attack, overwhelm, understand), from the Old Dutch grīpan (to seize, grasp), from the Proto-West Germanic *grīpan (to grab, to grasp), from the Proto-Germanic *grīpaną (to grab, grasp), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰreyb- (to grab, grasp) [source].

The Hague Street Art in Het Achterom.

The English words grip and gripe come from the same Proto-Germanic root, as do words such as the German greifen (to grab, grasp, grip, seize, snatch, reach), the Danish gribe (to catch, seize, grab, grasp, grip), the Swedish gripa (to catch hold of, seize, detain), and the French griffer (to scratch) and gripper (to grab, grasp) [source].

Some related words and expressions include:

  • grapje = joke, kidding, joking
  • grappigheid = humour, funniness, comicality, liveliness, succulence
  • grappenmaker = joker, prankster, funny man, comic
  • grappen maken = to joke, make jokes, make fun

Do you know any good Dutch jokes?

Do you find jokes in languages you’re learning / have learnt funny? If you do, that is a sign that you really understand a language well.

Underthrowing

The other day the word onderwerp [ˈɔndərwɛrp] came up in one of my Dutch lessons. It means subject, topic or issue, and to help me remember it, I decided to look into its etymology.

SUBJECT

It comes from onder (under, among) and werpen (to throw, shed, cast), and is a calque of the Latin word subiectum (that which is spoken of, the foundation or subject of a proposition) [source].

Related expressions include onderwerpen (to subject), onderwerping (submission, subjugation, subjection), onderwerpszin (subject clause), gespreksonderwerp (topic of conversation, talk, conversation piece), nieuwsonderwerp (news item)

Subiectum comes from subiciō (throw under or near; supply; forge; subject; propose), from sub- (under) and‎ iaciō (throw, hurl). The English word subject comes from the same root, as do related words in other languages, such as sujet (subject, cause, reason) in French, and soggetto (subject, dependent) in Italian [source].

So an onderwerp and a subject is something that is thrown under.

A related Dutch word is voorwerp [ˈvoːrˌʋɛrp], which means object or item, and comes from voor (for, before, in front of) and werpen (to throw, shed, cast), and is a calque of the Latin word obiectum (a charge, accusation), which is the root of object comes from the same root, as do related words in other languages, from obiciō (throw to; offer, present) [source]

Knickknacks

An interesting Dutch word I learnt yesterday is liflafjes [ˈlɪf.lɑf.jəs], which
means scraps, trimmings, leftovers or knickknacks [source]. The singular version, liflafje, apparently means “a small meal that fails to fill” or “a trifle” and is a diminutive of liflaf, which means insipid food, insipid text(s) or bland writing, and used to mean insipid or tasteless [source].

Knick-Knack

According to webwoordenboek.nl, liflaf means “een smakelijk maar weinig voedzaam gerechtje” (a tasty but not very nutritious dish), or “een aardig maar overbodig iets” (a nice but unnecessary thing).

These words come from liflaffen, a dated word that’s used mainly in Belgium to mean to grovel, fawn, flatter, caress or fondle. A related word is liflafferij [ˌlɪf.lɑ.fəˈrɛi̯], which means flattery or sweet-talking [source].

A knick(-)knack is a small ornament of minor value, a trinket or bauble. It is a reduplication of knack (aptness, petty contrivance, trick), which possibly comes from the Middle English krak (a sharp blow). An equivalent in Dutch is snuisterij [source].

A mishmash is a collection containing a variety of miscellaneous things. It is a reduplication of mash. Some synonyms include hodgepodge, melange, mingle-mangle, oddments and odds and ends. Do you have any others? An equivalent in Dutch is mikmak [source].

Snoring Fits

I came across an interesting Dutch word today – snorfiets [snɔrfits], which sounds like ‘snore fits’, and means a moped or scooter, particularly one limited to a maximum speed of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) [source].

Jawa Snorfiets

Snor [snɔr] on its own means mustache or whiskers, and when I saw snorfiets I thought it maybe referred to a bicycle with mustache-shaped handlebars, or some other mustache-shaped parts. In fact it comes from snorren (to hum, roar, purr, whirr).

Fiets [fits] means bicycle, and its origins are uncertain. It may be named after Elie Cornelis Viets, a wheelwright from Wageningen who made and repaired bicycles from 1880. It may be an abbreviation of a Dutch version of the French word velocipède, or it might come from vietse/fiette, Limburg and East Brabant dialect words meaning ‘to run fast or move quickly’, or from the older dialect word vietsen (to move quickly). The last exclamation is thought to be the most likely [source].

Bicycles, or fietsen, are quite popular in the Netherlands, so much so that there are more bikes than people there. According to an article in The Brussels Times, in 2018 there were an estimated 22.9 million bicycles in the Netherlands, and just 17.2 million people, or 1.3 bicycles per person.

Other types of fiets include:

  • bakfiets = cargo bike, freight bike
  • bierfiets = a party bike, beer bike – a pedal-powered road vehicle with a bar counter, multiple seats and a beer tap, so that the riders can drink while riding
  • bromfiets = moped
  • ligfiets = recumbent bike
  • motorfiets = motorbike
  • omafiets = roadster bike (“grandma bike”)
  • racefiets = racing/road bike

Neshness

If someone told you they were feeling a bit nesh, would you know what they meant?

Nesh [nɛʃ] means “sensitive to the cold” and “timid or cowardly”, according to Dictionary.com, and is apparently used in in northern and Midlands English dialects. Although I grew up in the northwest of England, I’d never heard it before a friend mentioned it yesterday.

According to Wiktionary it means:

  • Soft, tender, sensitive, yielding
  • Delicate, weak, poor-spirited, susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc
  • Soft, friable, crumbly

As a verb it means “to make soft, tender or weak”, or “to act timidly”.

It comes from the Middle English nesh/nesch/nesche, from the Old English hnesċe/ hnysċe/hnæsċe (soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton), from the Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī (soft), from the Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (soft, tender), from the Proto-Indo-European *knēs-/*kenes- (to scratch, scrape, rub).

Related words include:

  • neshen = to make tender or soft, to mollify
  • neshness = the condition of being nesh

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

From the same roots we get the German word naschen (to nibble, to eat sweets on the sly), and the English word nosh (food, a light meal or snack, to eat), via the Yiddish word נאַשן‎ (nashn – to snack, eat) [source].