Hiccius doccius

JugglerWe all know that abracadabra! is the cry of magicians and conjurers, as old fashioned as it may be. Hiccius doccius, however, belongs to jugglers.

Its usage is very similar: the juggler says hiccius doccius as they perform their feat or trick. The origin of hiccius doccius is not clear. It could be a modification of the Latin phrase hicce est doctus, which means ‘this or here is the learned man’ (Oxford English Dictionary), or it could simply be nonsense that imitates Latin. It has been in use since at least the late 17th century.

“In sadness, I think they are both jugglers: here is nothing, and here is nothing; and then hiccius doccius, and they are both here again.”

– John Dryden, Amphitryon, 1690


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Velleity

WishHere’s a word that probably should be used more often. It tends to pop up in philosophical texts, but I think most people have experienced velleity. It certainly strikes a chord with me…

A velleity is a “wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action” (Oxford Dictionaries). It means to will or desire without actually making an effort to act on that will or desire.

It stems from the Latin word velle, which means ‘to wish’. Use of velleity appears to have been fairly common in the 17th century, and the OED gives its first recorded usage as in 1624 (although it was spelled velleitie). This usage is a little more modern:

“I am finding that I have more and more velleities these days, and one of them is the velleity to travel, a hopeless longing to just peregrinate off somewhere.”

– Sam Savage, Glass, 2011


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‘Carat’ and ‘carrot’

Carat and carrot are, of course, homophones. And this means that phrases such as ’24-carrot gold’ are commonplace. It’s an amusing mistake, but not when someone else finds it in your writing.

CarrotsCarat

  • (or karat) a measure of the purity of gold
  • a unit of weight of precious stones

Carrot

  • tapering root vegetable (often orange in colour)
  • the plant that produces carrots
  • something offered as an incentive or a means of persuasion

My tip: carrots are root vegetables (and they will rot).


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

 

‘Hoarse’ and ‘horse’

I can’t remember ever seeing hoarse used when the writer actually meant horse (e.g. “I’m going to turn out my hoarse”) but it does seem common the other way round (e.g. “sorry, I’ve gone a bit horse”). That’s all the excuse I need to write a post that enables me to use a magnificent image of a magnificent animal.

Hoarse

  • (of a voice) rough, harsh and/or unclear
  • having a rough, harsh and/or unclear voiceHorse in water

Horse

  • a solid-hoofed, four-legged domesticated mammal with a mane and tail
  • a frame or structure used to support or mount something or someone
  • to provide someone or something with a horse (or horses)

My tip: hoarse is often harsh.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

Noctambulate

starry-nightDo you enjoy going for a stroll at night-time? I do; there’s nothing quite like taking a walk under a starry sky on a quiet evening.

This week’s interesting word is an easier way of saying ‘to walk at night’: noctambulate. It hasn’t fallen completely out of use in the English language but it is fairly rare.

Noctambulate can also be used to refer to sleep walking. Nocti- means ‘of, at or relating to night’ and ambulate means ‘to walk’ or ‘to move about’.

The OED records the first usage as in 1955. However, the words noctambulation and noctambulist are much older (both early 18th century). Noctambulation means the action of walking at night, while a noctambulist is a person who walks at night.

“I rarely did this, but now and then I would noctambulate through the city, where the lights were going off, or had long since gone…”

– Howard Spring, These Lovers Fled Away, 1955


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‘Principal’ and ‘principle’

Principal and principle are homophones. I’ve come across principal misused more often than principle, but it’s common to get them both confused. Principle is usually a noun but principal can be an adjective or a noun.

Principal

  • first in order of importance or value
  • lady-justicethe most important or senior person in an organisation

Principle

  • a fundamental truth, proposition, rule or law
  • a moral rule or set of such morals
  • a general scientific theorem or law
  • a fundamental source or basis of something

My tip: principal is spelled with an a, which is the first letter in the alphabet – and a principle is often a rule.


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary (2009)
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)

Mubblefubbles

Have you ever felt in low spirits and struggled to find an appropriate word to describe how you feel? I would like to suggest mubblefubbles as an option. It is considered to be obsolete but I think it’s a suitably expressive word for a difficult to verbalise feeling.

Mubblefubbledark-cloudss means a state of depression, melancholy or despondency. It’s quite often used in the form of to be in (or out of) one’s mubblefubbles.

The OED’s first recorded usage is from 1589 but the word’s origins are unclear. It could be imitative and I suspect the alternative form mumblefubbles may support this idea.

“‘I never used to be so full of the mubblefubbles,’ he told me wryly. ‘So fearful, so bitter—but the days when I was—when I was myself—seem so long ago that I can hardly remember them.'”

– Nancy Springer, The Golden Swan, 2014


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‘Descent’ and ‘dissent’

Descent and dissent are homophones that may just be a tad topical. It’s definitely worth knowing the difference.

descentDescent

  • the act of moving downwards, falling or dropping; a decline
  • the origin or background of a person (in terms of family or nationality)
  • a sudden attack or unexpected visit (descent on)

Dissent

  • the holding or expression of opinions that differ from those commonly or officially held
  • to hold or express opinions that differ from those commonly or officially held

My tip: to dissent is usually to disagree.


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Overmorrow

Have you ever wished there was a simpler way to say ‘the day after tomorrow’? Well, I’m here to provide you with the ideal word: overmorrow.

morning-sunrise-in-the-alpsIt is probably modelled on the German word übermorgen (über meaning ‘over’ and morgen meaning ‘morning’ or ‘tomorrow’). The German language has retained the use of übermorgen, but sadly overmorrow has become obsolete in English. I think that’s a shame – overmorrow expresses a useful concept concisely and without confusion.

The OED gives the first recorded use of overmorrow as in 1535, but I’m disappointed to report that I haven’t been able to find many examples. I’m slightly surprised as I had thought it might be popular in contemporary fantasy or historical fiction; it would certainly fit in nicely.

“‘Eh, no good. We’ll change that,’ she said. ‘You’ll start overmorrow.'”

– Greer Macallister, The Magician’s Lie, 2015


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‘Role’ and ‘roll’

Mixing up role and roll is a common mistake. Role is a noun, but roll can be a verb or a noun. You can find more comprehensive definitions of roll – I’ve just listed the main uses here (it’s a really long list otherwise) – but mine should give you an idea of the difference between the two words.

Role

  • a task or function

Roll

  • strawberry-caketo move by turning over and over; to rotate
  • to move or run on wheels
  • to turn something over and over to form a ball or cylinder
  • to flatten something
  • to reverberate; a prolonged reverberating sound
  • to appear like waves; to undulate
  • something that has been rolled up to form a cylinder shape
  • a small bread (enough for one person)
  • an official list or register
  • a swaying or unsteady movement

My tip: associate roll with ball (balls roll and you can roll something pliable into a ball) and/or poll (you need to be on the electoral roll to use a polling station).


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary, 2009
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)