Noodling About Nurdles

Do you like to nurdle?

The verb to nurdle can mean to gently waffle or muse on a subject which one clearly knows little about, which is something I do occasionally, or to score runs (in cricket) by gently nudging the ball into vacant areas of the field. It can also mean to shoot (a wink) into a position too close to the pot to be easily potted (in tiddlywinks).

As a noun, a nurdle is such a shot in cricket or tiddlywinks; cylindrical shaped pre-production plastic pellet used in manufacturing and packaging; or blob of toothpaste shaped like a wave, often depicted on toothpaste packaging [source].

Top view of my nurdle jar

The toothpaste nurdle, was apparently coined by the American Dental Association to educate the public about proper tooth brushing. It first appeared, as nerdle, in an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August 1996. The spelling later changed to nurdle. It is possible related to nodule, which comes from Latin nōdulus (small knot), from nōdus (knot) [source].

The 1958/59 ITV sketch show After Hours featured the olde English sport of drats, later known as nurdling. This might be one origin of the word [source].

The sport might even have older roots going back to pre-Roman Britain, or at least the 16th century in Dorset. See:
https://www.reddit.com/r/theocho/comments/11ysygr/the_ancient_sport_of_nurdling/
https://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/1849991.a-nurdling-we-will-go/

Nurdling can also refer to the practise of collecting little plastic nurdles wash up on beaches [source].

Nurdle should not be confused with noodle, which as a verb means:

  • To play (a musical instrument or passage of music) or to sing (a passage of music) in an improvisatory or lighthearted manner.
  • To ponder or think about (something)
  • To play a musical instrument or to sing in an improvisatory or lighthearted manner; also, to play a series of ornamental notes on an instrument.
  • To ponder or think, especially in an unproductive or unsystematic manner; to muse.
  • To attempt in an informal or uncertain manner; to fiddle.

Other meanings are available. This possibly comes from the German word nudeln (o make music or sing listlessly; to make music or sing at a low pitch or volume, or in an improvisatory manner) [source].

Let’s finish with some wise words from the great Rambling Syd Rumpo a singer of silly folk songs played by Kenneth Williams on the BBC Radio comedy show Round The Horne:

Early one morning
Just as my splod was rising
I heard a maiden scream in the valley below
O don’t nurdle me
O never nurdle me
How could you use your cordwangle so!

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Whimperatives

When you ask someone to do something for you, but in an indirect kind of way, or in other words, you phrase an order or imperative obliquely as a question, this is apparently called a whimperative. For example, you might say “Would you mind closing the window?”, rather than the more direct “Please, close the window” or “Close the window!”. Or you might say “Why don’t you be quiet?” instead of “Be quiet” [source].

Do Not Discard It In The Void

This word was coined by Jerrold Sadock, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago, in an essay he wrote in 1970. It’s a blend of whimper and imperative. Another term for a whimperative is interrogative directive [source].

A whimper is a low intermittent sob, and to whimper means to cry or sob softly and intermittently, to cry with a low, whining, broken voice, to whine, to complain, or to say something in a whimpering manner [source].

It is probably of imitative origin, or may by related to wimmern (to whimper, moan) in German. The words wimp and wimpy possibly come from whimper, and were likely influenced by the charcter J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comics [source].

Always Tuesday - Bijou Planks 81/365

The word imperative (essential, crucial, expressing a command) comes from the Latin word imperātīvus (of or proceeding from a command, commanded), from imperō (to comand, give orders to, demand, rule, govern), from in- (in) and parō (to arrange, order, resolve) [source].

Words from the same roots include pare (to cut away the outer layer from something, especially a fruit or a vegetable) in English, parer (to adorn, bedeck, fend off) in French, parer (to stop, halt, put up, lift, stand up) in Spanish and paratoi (to prepare) in Welsh [source].

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Clinking Hardware

Yesterday I discovered that a hardware store in French is a quincaillerie [kɛ̃.kaj.ʁi]. This word can also refer to hardware, ironmongery or junk, or in French, une ensemble hétéroclite de choses inutiles (a motley collection of useless things) [source]

Quincaillerie

Quincaillerie comes from quincaille (hardware, utensils) a variant of clincaille [klɛ̃.kaj], which is related to clinquant [klɛ̃.kɑ̃] (flashy, kitsch, pretentious), from clinquer [klɛ̃.ke] (to rattle, make a metalic noise), which comes from the onomatopeic word clic (click).

Similar words exist in Spanish: quincallería (hardware store) and quincalla (low-value hardware, junk). They were borrowed from French [more details].

Incidentally, the word clinquant [ˈklɪŋkənt] also exists in English, and was borrowed from French, which was possibly borrowed from Dutch klinken (to sound, ring, clink), As an adjective it means glittery, gleaming, sparkling, dressed in, or overlaid with, tinsel finery, and as a noun it means Dutch metal, tinsel or glitter [source].

Computer / IT hardware is matérial (informatique) or hardware in French [source] and computer software is logiciel [source].

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Overflowing Vases

The French equivalent of the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” or “the last / final straw” is la goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase (the drop of water that makes the vase overflow). Which makes as much a sense, and no animals are harmed.

La goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase. it's the straw that breaks the camel's back

These sayings mean “The final additional small burden that makes the entirety of one’s difficulties unbearable.” The earliest known version in English appears in a debate between Thomas Hobbes and John Bramhall in 1677: ‘the last Feather may be said to break a Horses Back’.

It is thought to be based on the Arabic proverb: اَلْقَشَّة اَلَّتِي قَصَمَت ظَهْر اَلْبِعِير⁩ (al-qašša allatī qaṣamat ẓahr al-biʕīr), or “The straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Other versions in English include:

  • It is the last straw that overloads the camel (1799)
  • It was the last ounce that broke the back of the camel (1832)
  • The last straw will break the camel’s back (1836)
  • As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back (1848)
  • This final feather broke the camel’s back (1876)
  • The straw that broke the donkey’s back
  • The last peppercorn breaks the camel’s back
  • The melon that broke the monkey’s back
  • The feather that broke the camel’s back
  • The straw that broke the horse’s back
  • The hair that broke the camel’s back
  • The last ounce broke the camel’s back

There is also “the last drop makes the cup run over”, and variations on that theme in English.

Versions in quite a few other languages also refer to overflowing cups or other vessels, for example:

  • German: der Tropfen, der das Fass zum Überlaufen bringt.
    the drop that makes the barrel overflow
  • Italian: la goccia che fa traboccare il vaso
    the drop of water that makes the glass overflow
  • Russian: ка́пля, перепо́лнившая ча́шу (káplja, perepólnivšaja čášu)
    the drop that made the bowl overflow
  • Turkish: bardağı taşıran son damla
    the last drop that makes the glass overflow

There are, however, quite different versions in some languages:

  • Scottish Gaelic: théid capall don choille ach brisidh aon uallach a chridhe
    the colt will go to the forest, but one burden will break his heart
  • Welsh: pennog gyda phwn dyrr asgwrn cefn ceffyl
    adding a herring to a load break’s a horse’s backbone (not sure of this translation)

Are there interesting equivalents of this saying in other languages?

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/the_straw_that_broke_the_camel%27s_back#English
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_that_broke_the_camel%27s_back
https://geiriaduracademi.org/
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-last-straw.html

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Various Verses

Did you know that there’s a whole world out there beyond your screen?

Bangor

It may be hard to believe, but apparently it does exist, and I even venture out into it occasionally.

What is this mythical place?

It has various names – some call it IRL (in real life) or RL (real life). Others call it the physical world or meatspace.

Meatspace, which is also written meat-space or meat space, is used online (often derogatorily) to refer to “the physical world, as opposed to the virtual world of the Internet.“ It was coined as analogy with cyberspace [source], and started to be used in the 1990s [source].

While writing this, I was thinking of other ways to refer to the real, physical world, and came up with realverse – an analogy of metaverse (see below). Apparently this word is already in use, at least to some extent. There are examples in this article: How to Connect #Metaverse to #Realverse.

The -verse suffix is used quite a bit in English at the moment. Some examples include:

  • multiverse = The hypothetical group of all the possible universes in existence.
  • metaverse = A hypothetical future (counterpart or continuation of the) Internet, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space.
  • wikiverse = The entire collective scope of wikis.
  • gameverse = A universe depicted in one or more video games.
  • Buffyverse = The fictional world, or universe, which serves as the setting for the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Source: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_terms_suffixed_with_-verse.

Do you know of any other ways to refer to the real world in English or other languages?

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Fictile Dairymaids

I came across an interesting word yesterday that I hadn’t seen before: fictile. It means capable of being moulded into the shape of an artifact or art work; moulded clay or earth; relating to earthenware, or capable of being led or directed. Synonyms include pliable and moldable.

Hopi Tewa Pot

Fictile comes from Latin fictilus, from fictus (feigned, fictitious, false), from fingō (to shape, fashion, form, deceive, pretend), from Proto-Italic *fingō (to knead, form), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeyǵʰ- (to knead, form, shape) [source].

Words for the same roots include: dairy, dough, feign, feint, fiction, figment and figure in English [source].

The word dairy comes from Middle English daierie (dairy, pantry, dairy farm), from daie/dey (dairymaid), from Old English dǣġe (maker of bread, baker, dairy-maid), from Proto-Germanic *daigijǭ (kneader of bread, maid), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeyǵʰ- (to knead, form) [source].

The word lady has similar roots: from Middle English ladie (the mistress of servants; female head of a household, manor, etc), from Old English hlǣfdīġe (mistress of a household, wife of a lord, lady), from hlāf (bread, loaf) and dīġe (kneader), which is related to dǣġe (maker of dough/bread). So a lady was originally a “bread-kneader” [source].

Incidentally, dough is used as a slang term for money, as is bread . This is thought to have started during the 19th century. Bread was a traditional everyday necessity of life, and to earn one’s living was to earn one’s bread, or crust, so bread, and the dough it’s made from, became synonymous with money [source].

The use of bread as slang for money may also be linked to Cockney Rhyming Slang – bread and honey = money. This should not be confused with bread and butter = gutter, or bread and cheese = sneeze [source].

Ways to “to earn a living” or “to earn a crust” in Welsh include ennill eich bara menyn (to earn one’s bread and butter) and ennill eich bara a chaws (to earn one’s bread and cheese).

Are there interesting ways to say “to earn a living” in other languages?

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Mud Glorious Mud

If you live in a muddy place, or want to describe such a place, you could use the old word lutarious.

cute and muddy

It means “of, pertaining to, or like, mud; living in mud”, and comes from the Latin word lutarius (of or belonging to the mud, living in mud), from lutum (mud, soil, dirt, mire, loam, clay), from Proto-Indo-European *lew- (dirt, mud) [source].

A related word is lutulent [ˈlʌtjʊlənt], which means pertaining to mud, or muddy.

Words for the same roots include:

  • Albanian: llucë = thin or shallow mud, muddy place
  • Portuguese: lodoso = muddy
  • Romanian: lut = clay, loam, mud, dirt, lutos = clayey
  • Spanish: lodo = mud, muck, mire, lodoso = muddy, boddy

Lutetia, the Gallo-Roman town founded in 52 BC that became Paris, gets it’s name from the Gaulish word *lutos (swamp), from Proto-Celtic *lutā (dirt, mud), from PIE *lew- (dirt, mud). It was known as Lutetia Parisiorum by the Romans. The Parisiorum part comes from Parīsiī, the Latin name for the Gaulish tribe who lived in the area. The name Paris comes from the same roots.

You can find more details on Radio Omniglot.

Incidentally, the French word boue [bu] (mud, dirt), also has Celtic roots: it comes from the Gaulish *bawā (mud, dirt), from Proto-Celtic *bowā (dirt, filth, excrement), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷewh₁- (excrement, dung) [source].

The Galician word bosta (dung, manure) comes from the same Celtic roots, as do the Welsh words baw (mud) and budr (dirty, filthy, vile, foul) [source].

Gwineas buoy

The French word boue shouldn’t be confused with the Breton word boue [ˈbuː.e], which means buoy. It comes from Middle English boi(e) (buoy), from Middle Dutch boeye, from Old Dutch *bōcan, from Frankish *baukn (symbol, sign) from Proto-Germanic *baukną (sign, symbol), from PIE *bʰeh₂- (to glow, light, shine) [source].

By the way, do you pronounce buoy [bɔɪ] (boy) or [ˈbu.i] (boo-ee), or some other way?

Gatekeeping / Geatóireacht

I’ve noticed that in discussion about minority and endangered languages, there is often some degree of gatekeeping. That is to say, there are people who believe that there is one true version of a language, and that anything else is a corrupt abomination that doesn’t deserve to be called X language. Or something along those lines.

The Gatekeeper

Acquiring a language as you grow up from your family or other people around you usually ensures that you speak it fluently and with a native accent. However, to become literate, and to be competent in using advanced vocabulary and grammar, you usually need to study the language in some kind of formal way. It also helps if you use it in a variety of situations. Such opportunities are not available to all.

People may use one language at home, and another at school, work or in other contexts. This is especially true with minority and endangered languages. So while they can speak the home language fluently, they may not have the vocabulary to talk about things that aren’t usually discussed at home.

For example, my Linguistics tutor at Bangor University grew up in a Welsh speaking family and speaks Welsh fluently. However, all his education was through English, and he does not use Welsh in his work. He told me that he speaks “Kitchen Welsh”, and just doesn’t have the vocabulary to talk about linguistics.

If you learn a language in school, or as an adult, it’s unlikely that you’ll learn it perfectly. You’ll probably speak it with a non-native accent, and you may not have as much vocabulary, or be able to use the grammar as well or as instinctively as a native speaker. This is one reason why languages change, especially when large numbers of people learn them as a second or foreign language.

People who really dedicate themselves to learning a language, can acquire native-like pronunciation, a comprehensive vocabulary and a high level knowledge and understanding of the grammar. They may even become more proficient in at least some aspects of the language than native speakers.

In the case of Irish, far more people learn it as a second or foreign language than speak it as a native language. There is a standard version of the language that is taught in schools and used in the media and official written material. However, there are variations within that standard that take into account dialect differences, and native speakers don’t necessarily use the standard.

There are people who complain that ‘school Irish’ has poor grammar, a relatively small vocabulary and non-native pronunciation, it’s influenced too much by English, and isn’t ‘proper Irish’. They might say the same about the Irish spoken by people who have learnt it as adults. While this may be true, it is not very encouraging for people trying to learn Irish. They might conclude that there’s no point, as they’ll never learn ‘real’ Irish.

Instead, it might be better to celebrate that fact that people are learning and using Irish, even if their Irish isn’t perfect. If they’re able to communicate effectively even with their imperfect Irish, then they are helping to keep the language alive.

Fortunately, such complainers are relatively rare, and the majority of Irish speakers I’ve met are very supportive of and welcoming to learners like me.

As they say in Irish: Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla cliste – Broken Irish is better than clever English. The writer of this article agrees with this, and would add ach is í an Ghaeilge chliste is fearr (but intelligent Irish is the best) to this saying.

There’s a simliar saying in Scottish Gaelic: Is fheàrr Gàidhlig bhriste na Gàidhlig sa chiste. – Broken Gaelic is better than Gaelic in the coffin.

What is your take on gatekeeping?

Are there similar sayings in other languages?

In April I’ll be going to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye to do a course in (Scottish) Gaelic Song, and in June I’ll be going to Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille in the northwest of Ireland to do a course in Irish Language and Landscape. I was planning to go to the Irish language and culture summer school at the end of July, as I have many times before, but it’s fully booked already.

World Endangered Writing Day

Today is World Endangered Writing Day, a day to celebrate the world’s minority and indigenous scripts and communities.

Logo of the World Endangered Writing Day

This is an initiative started this year by Tim Brookes, the founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project, who explains:

World Endangered Writing Day was born when I read that in traditional Balinese culture, one day a year was dedicated to respecting and venerating writing.

On the day dedicated to the goddess Saraswati, nothing written may be destroyed, or even a letter crossed out. All the lontar manuscripts—oblong pages of lontar palm leaf, written on with a stylus and then bound between wooden slats—in a household are gathered and act as the representation of the goddess, to whom eighteen offerings are made, one for each of the letters of the Balinese alphabet. Each offering contains the symbol of the supreme god, made of fried rice dough.

This shows a deep understanding of the value and importance of writing, beyond being a mere means of conveying information as quickly and clearly as possible.

World Endangered Writing Day, then, is a celebration of writing in all its varied and astonishing manifestations, especially those that see and use writing in far richer ways than we do.

[source]

Throughout the day there are online talks about writing, script extinction and revival, type design, and related topics. You can watch and listen to all the talks on the YouTube Channel: WEWD 2024.

More information about World Endangered Writing Day and about Tim Brookes’ Endangered Alphabets project:
https://www.endangeredwriting.world/
http://endangeredalphabets.com/
https://www.endangeredalphabets.net/

This is what the Balinese alphabet looks like, by the way:

ᬫᬓᬲᬫᬶᬫᬦᬸᬲᬦᬾᬓᬳᭂᬫ᭄ᬩᬲᬶᬦ᭄ᬫᬳᬃᬤᬶᬓᬮᬦ᭄ᬧᬢᬾ᭪᭟ᬲᬚᬦᬶᬂᬓᬳᬦᬦ᭄ᬮᬦ᭄ᬓᬸᬲ᭟ᬳᬶᬧᬸᬦ᭄ᬓᬦᬸᬕ᭄ᬭᬳᬶᬦᬶᬯᬾᬓᬮᬦ᭄ᬩᬸᬤ᭄ᬥᬶ᭟ᬧᬦ᭄ᬢᬭᬦᬶᬂᬫᬦᬸᬲᬫᬂᬤᬦᬾᬧᬭᬲ᭄ᬧᬭᭀᬲ᭄ᬫᬲᬫᬾᬢᭀᬦᬦ᭄

If you want to know more about the world’s writing systems, there’s a little website you might find interesting: Omniglot – the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.

Lady Gunilda

When is a gun not a gun?

Ballista

The word gun nowadays refers to “A device for projecting a hard object very forcefully; a firearm or cannon, etc”. However, originally it wasn’t just used for firearms. The word possibly comes from the name of a ballista, a type of giant crossbow (see above), that was used at Windsor Castle in England in the 14th century – Domina Gunilda (Lady Gunilda).

An inventory of the munitions of Windsor Castle conducted in 1330-31 included the entry:

Una magna balista de cornu quæ vocatur Domina Gunilda.
(A great ballista of horn which is called Lady Gunilda.)

Not long after that, the word gonne starts to appear. It was also written gon, gonn, goone or gun, and referred to:

  1. A trebuchet or similar kind of pellet-firing siege engine.
  2. A cannon or other large firearm; a piece of artillery.
  3. A portable handheld firearm; a gun (i.e. a hand cannon).
  4. A projectile (rare).

Later, it began to be used specifically for firearms.

The name Gunilda comes from the Old Norse name Gunnhildr, from gunnr (war) and‎ hildr (battle). It’s a female name that’s poetically translated as “battle maid”. Other versions include Gunhilda, Gun(n)hild, Gunill(a), Gunnel, Hildur, Hilda and Hildegard.

Here’s a little song from Hildegard von Blingin’, because why not?

Other names from the same roots include Brunhild(a), Imelda and Matilda.

Sources: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gun#English
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gunne#Middle_English
https://www.wordorigins.org/big-list-entries/gun
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hildiz