Do you latibulate?

Do you ever feel like latibulating?

Perhaps you might do if you don’t feel very osculable.

These are words I learnt today from the Something Rhymes with Purple podcast.

Latibulate means “to hide oneself in a corner” and comes from the Latin latibulum (hiding place, refuge, den) [source].

Osculable means “capable of being kissed” or “kissable” and comes from the Latin ōsculāre (to kiss) [source].

Related words include to osculte (to kiss), osculation (the act of kissing), osculatrix (a lady who kisses), an oscularity (a kiss), and an osculary (anything that can and should be kissed).

So if you meet an osculary, maybe you could suggest to them that you latibulate in order to engage in some osculation. Perhaps not the most effective of chat-up lines, but it might work if you find another word nerd.

Dilemmas and Trilemmas

A dilemma is “a situation necessitating a choice between two equal, esp. equally undesirable, alternatives”, or “a problem that seems incapable of a solution” [source].

It comes, via Late Latin, from the Ancient Greek δίλημμα (dílēmma, – ambiguous proposition), from δι- (di-, having two of) and λῆμμα (lêmma, – premise, proposition) [source].

Today I spotted the word trilemma in an article in The Spectator. I hadn’t seen it before, but from the context it appears to be a variant of dilemma involving three choices.

According to Wiktionary, a trilemma is “A circumstance in which a choice must be made between three options that seem equally undesirable” or “put another way, in which a choice must be made among three desirable options, only two of which are possible at the same time.”

I thought trilemma was a recently-coined word, but according to Wikpedia, it was first used in writing back in 1672.

Soft mitigation

The Russian word милый means dear, sweet (having a pleasing disposition); beloved, dear or darling. I learnt this while putting together a page of terms of endearment in Russian today.

It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *milъ (sweet, dear), from the Proto-Indo-European word *meh₁y- (mild, soft).

The Czech word milý (nice, kind, good, dear, pleasant, sweet; boyfriend) comes from the same root, as do similar words in other Slavic languages, such as the Belarusian мілы (sweet, nice), the Bulgarian мил (dear), and the Polish miły (nice, pleasant).

The Latin mītis (gentle, mild, ripe) comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root, as does the Italian word mite (mild, moderate, balmy), the Portuguese word mitigar (to mitigate), the Spanish word mitigar (to mitigate, alleviate, allay, assuage, quench, soothe), and the English word mitigate.

I’m would like to put together pages of terms of endearment / affection in other languages. Can you help with this?

Scrupulous Scruples


A scruple can be a doubt, hesitation or unwillingness to do something due to uncertainity about what is right, or to show reluctance on grounds of conscience [source].

When scruple first appeared in English in the 14th century [source], it referred to a unit equal to ¹/₂₄ of an apothecaries ounce, ⅟288 of a pound, twenty grains, one third of a dram or 1.3 grams. As a liquid measure it was ¹/₂₄ of a fluid ounce, ⅓ of a fluid dram, 20 minims, ¼ of a teaspoon, or 1.23mm [source]. It could also refer to a minute part or quantity of something.

The symbol for a scruple is ℈ (see top right), which was used by alchemists and apothecaries. Related symbols include ℥ = apothecary ounce and ℨ = dram or drachm [source]. More alchemical symbols.

By the 15th century a scruple was “an ethical consideration or principle that inhibits action” or a “mental reservation” [source]

Scruple comes from the Old French scruple (scruple, compunction, qualm), from the Latin scrūpulus (a small sharp or pointed stone; ¹/₂₄ of an ounce; uneasiness of mind, anxiety, doubt, trouble; scruple), a diminutive of scrūpus (a rough or sharp stone; anxiety, uneasiness).



Do you suffer from matutolypea?

If you do, then you are in a bad mood and easily annoyed, especially in the morning, or ill-humoured and downright obnoxious first thing in the morning [source].

An example of how to use it: “The secret is not to talk to him at all until he’s been awake for at least an hour. Wait till the matutolypea subsides.” [source]

Matutolypea comes from the Latin Mātūta, the Roman goddess of morning or dawn [source] (pictured above), and the Greek λῠ́πη – lúpē (sadness, suffering, affliction) [source], so could also be translated as “dawn saddness”.

I learnt this word from an episode of the podcast Something Rhymes with Purple.

Those you suffer from matutolypea might be said to have got up on the wrong side of the bed or woken on the wrong side of the bed. According to a superstition that dates back to the Romans, the wrong side of the bed is the left side, as the left is associated with bad luck and is decidely sinister in Latin. The Roman emperor Augustus Caeser apparently always got up on the right side of bed beacuse of this superstition [source].

According to the Grammar Monster, “an ancient superstition that evil spirits lay on a certain side of the bed. A person who wakes up and gets out the “wrong” side of the bed disturbs the evil spirits and attracts their wrath, putting the person in a foul mood.”

Even though I get up on the left side of my bed every morning, as the right side is against a wall, I rarely suffer from matutolypea.

Are there any words, phrases or sayings in other languages about being miserable in the morning?


One of the things we talked about last night at the French conversation group was patois, specifically Jamaican (Jimiekn / Patwah).

In French patois means

“Système linguistique essentiellement oral, utilisé sur une aire réduite et dans une communauté déterminée (généralement rurale), et perçu par ses utilisateurs comme inférieur à la langue officielle.” [source]


“an essentially oral linguistic system, used in a small area and in a particular community (usually rural), and perceived by its users as inferior to the official language.”

In English patois means “an unwritten regional dialect of a language, esp. of French, usually considered substandard; the jargon of particular group.” [source].

Another definition of patois from Wiktionary is:

1. A regional dialect of a language (especially French); usually considered substandard.
2. Any of various French or Occitan dialects spoken in France.
3. Creole French in the Caribbean (especially in Dominica, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti).
4. Jamaican Patois, a Jamaican Creole language primarily based on English and African languages but also has influences from Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi.
5. Jargon or cant.

It comes from the Middle French patois (local dialect), from the Old French patois (incomprehensible speech, rude language), from the Old French patoier (to gesticulate, handle clumsily, paw), from pate (paw), from Vulgar Latin *patta (paw, foot), from the Frankish *patta (paw, sole of the foot), from the Proto-Germanic *pat-, *paþa- (to walk, tread, go, step), of uncertain origin [source].

Patois was first used in written French in 1643 to refer to non-standard varities of French, and to regional languages such as Picard, Occitan, Franco-Provençal and Catalan. Such varities and languages were assumed to be backward, countrified, and unlettered. Use of the word was banned by king Louis XIV in 1700.

There is no standard linguistic definition of patois, and to a linguist it can refer to pidgins, creoles, dialects, or vernaculars [source].

Are there similar words in other languages?

Thatched Stegosauruses!

What do togas, stegosauruses and thatch have in common?


These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source].

Toga comes from the Latin togategō (I clothe) , from the Proto-Indo-European *togéh₂ (cover), from *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Stegosaurus comes from the Ancient Greek words στέγος (stégos – roof) and σαῦρος (saûros – lizard) [source], and στέγος comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source]. The origins of σαῦρος are uncertain. So a stegosaurus is a “roof lizard”.

Thatch comes from the Old English þæc (roof-covering), from the Proto-Germanic *þaką (covering), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Words for house in the Celtic languages also come ultimately from the same root – (Welsh) chi (Cornish), ti (Breton), teach (Irish), taigh (Scottish Gaelic) and thie (Manx). More details.

Wise Clocks

city hall from Hantverkargatan Stockholm

The Swedish word klok [kluːk] means wise, sensible or intelligent. It doesn’t sound quite like the English word clock, but looks like it should. In fact it sounds more like cluck.

Some examples of how it’s used, and of related words:

  • klok gubbe = wise old man
  • klok gumma = wise woman
  • klok som en bok/pudel/uggla = as wise as a book/poodle/owl
  • En sådan politik skulle inte vara klok = Such a policy would be ill-advised
  • Detta är en klok rekommendation = This is a sensible recommendation
  • det verkar klokt = that seems wise
  • Är du inte klok? = Are you out of your mind?
  • Är du inte riktigt klok? = Are you crazy? Are you completely out of your mind?
  • Jag blev inte klok på det = I cannot make it out, It didn’t make sense to me
  • klokhet = wisdom, prudence, sense, wit
  • klokskap = cleverness
  • klokt = wisely, judiciously, sagely

Owls are also seen as wise in English, and although we don’t say ‘as wise as a book’, reading books can help on the road to wisdom. Poodles are not usually associated with wisdom in English, as far as I know, but it seems they are in Swedish.

In other languages, what is the equivalent of the phrase ‘as wise as an owl’?

Klok comes from the Old Norse klókr (arch, cunning, clever), from Middle Low German klôk.

The Swedish word for clock is klocka [klɔkːa], which comes from the Old Swedish klockæ, from Old Norse klokka (bell, clock), from Late Latin clocca (o’clock), probably from the Proto-Celtic *klokkos (bell), from the Proto-Indo-European *klēg-/*klōg- (onomatopoeia).

Sources:, Linguee,, Svenska Akademiens Ordböcker, DinOrdbok, Wiktionary

Heys and Hedges

Last night I went to a session of Playford dancing. Bangor University Folk Society run a workshop for Playford dancing once a month, and some of those involved persuaded me to give it a try. It’s the kind of dancing you might see in dramas set in 17th or 18th century England.

Here’s an example of one of the dances we did last night (we weren’t wearing costumes like this though):

Apparently back in the 1600s middle class people in England were getting tired of difficult, formal dances, and started dancing the simpler dances of country folk as light relief. Dancing experts took the country dances and made them a bit more complex. The new dances proved very popular, and in 1651 a collection of them was pubished by John Playford in a book called ‘The English Dancing Master’. Several more editions and similar books were published after that.

In the early 20th century there was a revival of interest in folk music and dance, Playford’s book provided the earliest known descriptions of English country dances, and this style of dancing became known as ‘Playford dancing’ [source].

One of the moves we danced last night is called a hey or hay, a kind of figure of 8 weave. I wasn’t sure how to spell it, or where it came from, so I thought I’d find out.

A hey is “a choreographic figure in which three or more dancers weave between one another, passing by left and right shoulder alternately”. It comes from the French haie (hedge), and refers to the weaving patterns used in hedgelaying [source].

Haie comes from the Medieval Latin haga, from the Frankish *hagja, from Proto-Germanic *hagjō (hedge) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European *kagʰyóm (enclosure), which is also the root of the English words hedge and hawthorn [source].

Anyway, I really enjoyed the dancing and will probably be going along next month.

Flying Deer and Kites

Cerf-volant / Kite

Last night I learnt that the French word for kite is cerf-volant [sɛʁ.vɔ.lɑ̃], or “flying deer/stag”. Cerf-volant also means stag beetle.

Cerf (stag, hart) comes from the Old French cerf (deer), from Latin cervus (deer, stag), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥h₂wós, from *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].

Actually the cerf in cerf-volant comes from a different root to the cerf meaning stag – from the Occitan sèrp-volanta (flying serpent) [source].

Kites were possibly invented in China in the 6th century BC. They in first appeared in Europe during the 15th century and were in the form of serpents or dragons, which is perhaps why there were called sèrp-volanta [source].

In Chinese a kite is 风筝 [風箏] (fēngzheng): 风 [風] (fēng) = wind, and 箏 (zhēng) is a kind of musical instrument similar to a zither [source], so you could translate that word as “wind zither”.

Do kites have interesting names in other languages?