Tag Archives: word


Silas has been a nervous wreck, his wings are constantly, yet subtly, fluttering and he’s making the entire house edgy. He’s tossed salt over his shoulder, spit, and lit a candle in the garden.

You see, Silas ran across a Barghest last night.

A Barghest is a dog-like goblin said to portend misfortune or even death. It has been described as monstrous, unspeakably large, and is said to have enormous teeth and claws. Some say if you see the dog, you will die soon after the encounter, though most people agree that you will just enjoy terrible misfortune.

The word is said to have originated sometime between 1725 and 1735 (most likely from someone seeing said creature and shrieking like a maniac). An Old English word, it’s a combination, apparently, of bar(row) + ghest or gaest, a variant of ghost.

Whatever the origin, Silas says he saw it across the street when he came back from his run through Prospect Park (he runs at night, since his eyes are so sensitive to daylight) and he’s not been the same since. I’m not sure what Silas considers a great misfortune; some might consider breaking the last egg a great misfortune, though I think Silas is worried about something more sinister. Losing a limb or the like.

I just wish he’d snapped a photograph. Or sketched a quick picture for me. I’ve never seen a barghest.


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It is All Soul’s Day. Cousin Silas, being a fan of rituals of all kinds, woke early this morning and wandered The Green-Wood Cemetery to commune amongst the gravestones and observe what the Roman Rite liturgy calls The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. As usual, Silas will celebrate with a culinary fete; I believe he will be making a stuffed pumpkin tonight. Last night he made pears stuffed with brie and pistachios for Dia de los Muertos. I can not keep up with all his rituals, but I will gladly eat the food.

This, of course, brings me to today’s word.

Hagiolatry (pronounced hag-ee-OL-uh-tree) is, simply, the worship of saints. (It can also mean To treat someone with undue reverence.)

It stems from the Greek hagio- holy plus -latry worship.

According to Catholicism, each day has a saint (or saints) associated with it. The faithful celebrate the lives of these saints each and every day. Silas keeps tiny totems of each of the saints in his home – he does not travel beyond his nest with them. Not a Catholic, Silas also keeps totems of Hindu gods, Buddha, and Islamic walis. Clearly he couldn’t travel with all of his totems, it would weigh him down too much in flight.

Luckily, Silas travels with all his recipes tucked away in his brain. Not one for hagiolatry myself, I am rather interested in gastrolatry.

Whatever your beliefs are, today, go find something delicious and appreciate it.


I come from a long line of ne’er-do-wells, I’ll be the first to admit it. My reticence to hoodwink my fellow man makes me a bit of a black sheep in the family. My Cousin Silas can talk you into or out of anything, and, as you can imagine, is quite lethal at cocktail parties. He sent me a letter today and I should be expecting a visit sometime this fall. Hide the silverware and bring out the croquet mallets! (Obviously because he’s a delightful croquet player and we have an ongoing match that spans decades.) Today’s word, then, is in anticipation of my questionable cousin.

Honeyfuggle is a verb that means to deceive by flattery or sweet-talk; swindle or cheat or dupe. As well as to wheedle, to ballyhoo. Quite simply put, to honeyfuggle is to flatter with an ulterior motive.

This is a 19th century American term, with different spellings and variances evolving over time. These include honey fugle, honeyfogle and honeyfugle. To parse the word out, the honey portion is the “sweet talk” aspect of the term, but the fuggle portion is puzzling. It’s commonly assumed to be a variation on the English dialect word coneyfugle, which means to hoodwink or cajole by flattery. Interestingly, coney is the old word for an adult rabbit and fugle means to cheat. How coney and fugle got put together is lost to the ages.

Bubo thinks that since rabbits are so soft, you would “soften” someone in order to cheat them. As language and idioms changed, people quit “softening” and started “sweetening” so the coney evolved to honey. She’s so smart, that one.

And I’m not trying to honeyfuggle her.


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I left the windows open last night, to let in the cool rain and breezes in last night. I slept so remarkably well that I woke feeling positively spry.

I headed into the library this morning to find the place completely overturned and a mess. And then I heard the unmistakeable sounds of a herd of flivvervaats. Which leads me to today’s word, naturally.

Catawampus is both a noun and an adjective. Delightful, eh wot? Definitions, then are: 1. adj. askew, crooked, out of alignment. 2. adj. fierce, destructive. 3. noun. a fierce imaginary animal, bogeyman.

Catawampus is considered an American colloquialism, originating around 1840. (Apparently there was a period there when elaborate coinages were particularly in vogue.) Cata- stems from cater-, a now-archaic root meaning “diagonal”. What you pronounce “cattycorner” actually is catacorner or catercorner, believe it or not. The -wampus portion of the word’s origin is up for debate, though some believe it to come from the Scots word wampish which means to wriggle or twist.

And what about the whole fierce definition? This is thought to stem from the word catamount, that delightful old American term for a mountain lion. (Cat-a-Mount)

Two origins. Two very different definitions. One delightful word.

Therefore, one might say that the catawampus library was caused by a herd of catawampus creatures.


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