Wednesday 28 March 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday 28/3/12

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our weekly reading.  

Today I share even more words from The Wind in the Willows!

1. Murrain

"Watch and ward him with all thy skill; and mark thee well, greybeard, should aught untoward befall, thy old head shall answer for his- and a murrain on both of them!"

i) Any of various highly infectious diseases of cattle, as anthrax.
ii) Obsolete A pestilence or dire disease. The Free Dictionary. 

Picture credit

Oh how fabulous. It's like wishing a pox upon you! And I'm astonished by Gustave Dore's biblical images. I came across Dore about 18 months ago when I read a beautiful edition of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales that was illustrated by him. He has a wonderful, detailed, dark style. It seems he did a lot of biblical illustrations too. I do love the journeys our Wondrous Words open up. 

2. Selvedge (Noun) (Selvage in the US)

The willow-wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank.

i) The edge of a fabric that is woven so that it will not fray or ravel.
ii) An ornamental fringe at either end of an Oriental rug.
iii) The edge plate of a lock that has a slot for a bolt. The Free Dictionary. 

Clearly, our usage is not there. I knew it was a word my mother used, and it had something to do with sewing. 

Merriam Webster has some slightly different meanings about fabric, and then I think our meaning here

An outer or peripheral part: border, edge. 

3. Osiers (Noun)

'I hear nothing myself,' he said, 'but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'

i) Any of several willows having long rodlike twigs used in basketry, especially the Eurasian Salix viminalis and S. purpurea.
ii) A twig of one of these trees. The Free Dictionary. 

Picture credit
The title quote! Caught by chance....

4. Sward (Noun)

...saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward;

i) Land covered with grassy turf.
ii) A lawn or meadow. The Free Dictionary. 

5. Immured (Verb)

When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon, and knew that all the grim darkness of a medieval fortress lay between him and the outer world of sunshine and well-metalled high roads where he had lately been so happy, disporting himself as if he had bought up every road in England, he flung himself at full length on the floor, and shed bitter tears, and abandoned himself to dark despair. 

i) To confine within or as if within walls; imprison.
ii) To build into a wall
iii) To entomb in a wall. The Free Dictionary. 

Ah that makes so much sense! And I have a chance of remembering it. From the latin for wall (murus), which is where of course mural comes from. 

6. Chaff (Noun, Verb)

The chaff and the humorous sallies to which he was subjected, and to which, of course, he had to provide prompt and effective reply, formed, indeed, his chief danger; for Toad was an animal with a strong sense of his own dignity, and the chaff was mostly (he thought) poor and clumsy, and the humour of the sallies entirely lacking. 

i) Finely cut straw or hay used as fodder. 
ii) Trivial or worthless matter. 
iii) To engage in playful teasing. Good-natured teasing. Banter. The Free Dictionary

I spent several years as a teenage girl mucking about with horses, so knew the first meaning. Here Grahame is using the third.

The chaff I knew
My Google Image search quickly showed me another meaning for chaff that I was unaware of. 
Chaff cartridges

7. Sallies (Noun, Verb)

i) To rush out or leap forth suddenly
ii) To issue suddenly from a defensive or beseiged position to attack an enemy.
iii) To set out on a trip or excursion: sallied forth to see the world.
i) A sudden rush forward; a leap.
ii) An assault form a defensive position; a sortie.
iii) A sudden emergence into action or expression; an outburst
iv) A sudden quick witticism; a quip
v) A venturing forth; a jaunt. 

Again a new usage for me, I knew the sallied forth usage, but not the quip as used here. 

8. Pettifogging (Verb)

It was hard he though, to be within sight of safety and almost home, and to be baulked by the want of a few wretched shillings and by the pettifogging mistrustfulness of paid officials. 

Petty, mean, quibbling. The Free Dictionary. 

I love this word, and hope to use it soon. 


bermudaonion said...

I knew the fabric meaning of selvage - I guess they were using it figuratively in that sentence. I'm glad I haven't had the need to use murrain. Thanks for playing along.

Libby said...

Oh, I LOVE the Wind in the Willows - a childhood favorite of mine and my kids! I knew selvage from Home Ec - LOL! And, you are right - Pettifogging is a GREAT word. I will definitely use it too. Thanks :)

Annie said...

Ver intersting words and images (they help me !). I just knew "osier", because we use it in French. I like lot this plant so beautiful during Winter and Spring.

Anonymous said...

Interesting words and pictures.

Anonymous said...

So many words today that I can't choose which one I like best! Thanks for sharing.

Sim Carter said...

Wonderful words from the wonderful Wind in the Willows! yes, I knew selvedge from home ec. I like the word immured, so lyrical sounding!

Margot said...

I like pettifogging too. I'm going to try to use that one in conversation. I've enjoyed your last two WW posts on Wind in the Willows. This nice little peak at the book has made me put it on my to-reread list.