Thursday, June 6, 2013


Ah (ough), I am so easily distracted sometimes....

The combination "ough" can be pronounced in nine different ways in English. The following sentence contains them all: "A rough-coated (uff), dough-faced (oh), thoughtful (aw) ploughman (ow) strode through (oo), the streets of Scarborough (uh); after falling into a slough (ew), he coughed (off) and hiccoughed (up).  When the word slough is used to indicate shedding skin, like snakes do, it is pronounced sluff. Slough meaning wet, swampy ground can be pronounced either slou (rhymes with cow) or slew.
Bumfuzzle:   confuse; perplex; fluster; may have begun as dumfound, which was then altered first into dumfoozle and then into bumfoozle. Dumfound (or dumbfound) remains a common word today, but bumfuzzle unfortunately is extremely rare.

Cattywampus:  askew, awry, kitty-corner. Long ago English gamblers called the four-dotted side of a die cater (from the French quatre, "four"). The placement of those four dots suggested two diagonal lines, which is likely how cater came to mean (dialectally, anyway) "to place, move, or cut across diagonally."  Catercorner (later kitty-corner) and caterwampus –and eventually cattywampus –followed.

All of this, simply because someone said cattywampus at a meeting, which another said dumbfounded them, and we started thinking about words in general.

Yup - too easily distracted.





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