Skip to main content

Do you awhape your kids?

child learning from mum

No, it’s not a typo – it’s an old English word meaning to amaze, confound utterly or stupefy with fear!


New words are constantly being added to our vocabulary.  Twenty years ago a ‘tablet’ was something that you swallowed with a glass of water to make you better, but most youngsters think of it as a piece of technology that they use daily.  Even ‘amazeballs’ has found its way into the columns of the Oxford English Dictionary.


In 2017 ‘PC’ means either politically correct or personal computer – although the older generation may recall it as the common name for a policeman.


While all these new words are making their presence felt, at the other end of the scale, words that were used as recently as the 1950s have fallen into disuse.  Who remembers ‘slug-a-bed*’ or ‘ear rent*’?


English is a rich language, if full of irregularities.  A Sicilian man once described English as “the language where you write ‘London’ and read ‘Liverpool’”. No doubt he had been struggling with the many different pronunciations of the letters ‘ough’! (bough, cough, rough, through, though).


There is a poem by humourist and founder of Random House, Bennet Cerf, that adds to the confusion too:


The wind was rough – and cold and blough;

She kept her hands inside her mough.

It chilled her through.  Her nose turned blough

And still the squall the faster flough.

And yet although, there was no snough

The weather was a cruel fough.

It made her cough, (please do not scough);

She coughed until her hat blew ough!


The vocabulary available grows every year and yet we still don’t a word for that feeling you get when you scrape your fingernails on a blackboard or a fork across a plate.  The Spanish do – they call it ‘grima’ and it’s defined as ‘an unpleasant sensation, shivering or repulsive sounds’.  Maybe we should adopt the Spanish word, like the French adopted ‘le football’!


Then we could also add ‘Hygge’, a Danish word for the feeling of sitting round a fire with friends on a cold winter day.


And there are regularly instances for using ‘Tartle’, a Scottish expression to describe that moment of panic as you realise you have to introduce someone whose name completely escapes you.


Does your teenager practise ‘Boketto’?  It’s the Japanese word for gazing vacantly into space!


Encourage your children to love language and get into the habit of checking words in the dictionary, or finding a new way of saying something by using a Thesaurus.  They’ll be glad they have a rich vocabulary when they get older.


*slug-a-bed – someone who lies in bed late

*ear rent – the cost of having to listen to someone ramble on about trivial matters