Knufflige Knuffelbeests

Giant Giraffe

If someone called you a knuff, would you see it as a compliment or an insult?

Knuff is an obsolete English word that means a lout or clown, so it would be an insult. It comes from the Old English cnof (a churl). The k is silent, but I think in Old English the c was pronounced [source].

Possibly related Swedish words include knuff (nudge, push, boost, dig, shove) [source] and knuffa (to push, nudge, shove) [source].

Possibly related German words include knuffen (to nudge; to jab; to pinch (usually playfully or even tenderly)) [source] and knuffig (cuddly) [source]

Possibly related Dutch words include knuffelen (to cuddle, hug), from the Low German knuffen (to poke; bump; nudge) [source], knuffig (cuddly) [source], knuffel (hug, cuddle, stuffed toy) [source] and knuffelbeest (stuffed toy) [source].

The word knuff came up in one of my Swedish lessons this week, and as I like the sound of it, I thought I’d write about it. There’s something about that combination of k and n and the beginning of a word that makes it sound cute and cuddly to me.

Which sounds and combinations of sounds (in any language) most appeal to you?

2 thoughts on “Knufflige Knuffelbeests

  1. According to the O.E.D. there was the word “gnoff” that was last used in early modern English, so the “g” would be pronounced (as that didn’t stop until the 18th century, I believe, and then not among some Scots dialects). It meant “churl.” Not sure it it’s related, but it sounds churlish… unless you take out the “g.”

  2. Then there’s the Flanders & Swann song – “I’m a gnu”, in which the initial ‘g’ is definitely sounded!

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