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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