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It’s Have, Not Of


One of my pet hates in modern language uses (yes, there are many, sadly) is the incorrect use of the word “of” instead of the possessive or experiential “have“.

When I was a nipper (many moons ago now) I was flogged to within an inch of my life – metaphorically speaking – for writing things such as “he would’ve”, “she should’ve”, “they could’ve”.  “Young man”, I was told, “the words are “he would have“, “she should have“, “they could have“.  “Have”, you understand, not ‘ve”.

For many, the shortened versions have persisted but there are those who now join in the clamour to have the shortened versions untangled again.  ‘Hurrah’ I hear you exclaim!  Regrettably, in splitting the words into two the wrong word “of” has been applied to the sounded “‘ve” so that we now have “he would of”, “she would of”, “they should of”.

Ghastly, uggh!  Horrid. Wrong.

I’ll get down off my soapbox now and get me coat.


The Art of Diction According to Jeeves and Wooster

I am indebted to Percival Devante Esq for the following item found on the now defunct (great word to be looked at later) blog site Swell & Dandy.  It’s such a shame things must come to an end!

Jeeves and Wooster

Set in 1930s England and America, P.G. Wodehouse’s ‘Jeeves’ stories in addition to the television series based on the former are riddled with charming, archaic English terminology and phrases.  If you don’t know the stories, you really are missing out.  Delay no longer and get the books here.

Book Depository

Or, view the series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry here.

 Amazon dvd (2)

 The Diction of Jeeves and Wooster

The following is a list of essentials with their definitions and explanations.  Feel free to slip them into every-day conversation to keep your friends on their toes.

Agog – (adj) Very eager or curious to hear or see something: “I’m all agog to see the Duchess’ new hat.”

Bally – (adj) bloody, damned [mild explicative]: “Get that bally dog out of the kitchen!”

To be all a twitter – (v) To be anxious or excited about something: “The Mater has been all a twitter ever since Mrs. Nelson told her the news about the Duke of Edinburgh.”

To be dashed – (v) To be confounded; used interchangeably with to be damned: “Well, I’ll be dashed!”

To biff  – (v) To strike or to punch: “If you don’t remove your elbows from the table I shall biff you.”

Blighter – (n) A fellow, especially one held in low esteem: “He’s a silly blighter, isn’t he?”

Blithering – (adj) Senselessly talkative, babbling; used chiefly as an intensive to express annoyance or contempt: “Mister Hooper, you are such a blithering idiot.”

By Jove! – (interj) [used as a mild oath to express surprise or emphasis]

Chap – (n) A man or a boy.

Chin-chin – (interj) [used as a greeting or as a toast when drinking to someones health]

Cross-patch -(n) A bad-tempered or irritable person: “O, don’t be such a cross-patch, Charles.”

Dash – (adv) A mild form of damn: “That was dash cunning of you.”
Dashed – (adj) A mild form of damned, derived from dash: “The dashed thing doesn’t work!”

Dash it all! – (interj) [used to express angry or dismay; interchangeable with damn it]

Drivel – (n) Silly nonsense; “How can you say such drivel?”

Frightful – (adj) [used for emphasis, esp. of something bad]

Frightfully – (adv) Very (used for emphasis): “I’m frightfully sorry.”

To get it in the neck – (v) To be punished or criticised for something: “She really gave it to me in the neck when I arrived late for dinner.”

Humdrum – (adj) Lacking variety or excitement; dull: “I don’t want to go to school, Mummy, maths is so humdrum.”

I say! – (interj) [used to express surprise or disgruntlement; often interchangeable with O my!]

Jolly well – (adv) very much; a phrase used for emphasis or enthusiasm: “I jolly well hope so!”

Look here! – (interj) [used to express disgruntlement or agitation with a person or persons]: “Look here, you swine! What do you think you’re doing?”

Milksop – (n) A weak or ineffectual person; whimp: “Don’t be such a milksop, Spencer, it’s only a kitten.”

Old man – (n) [term of endearment used in informal direct address]

Old thing – (n) [term of endearment used in informal direct address]

Pipped – (adj) To get the better of; defeat.

Positively – (adv) Very (used for emphasis): “How positively lovely!”

Right-o – (interj) [used to express cheerful concurrence, assent, or understanding]

Ripping – (adj) excellent, delightful: “What a positively ripping sweater you’re wearing, Bernard!”

Rot – (n) nonsense [often used interjectionally]: “What rot!”

Rummy – (adj) queer, odd: “That was a rummy sort of thing to say, don’t you suppose?”

To talk through one’s hat – To talk nonsense; especially on a subject that one professes to be knowledgeable about but in fact is ignorant of: “He’s never really met Lady Astor, he’s just talking through his hat.”

That’s not cricket – (interj) [used to express dismay at an instance of unfair or ungentlemanly conduct or proceedings]: “Mater, Helen has taken the whole sugar dish and refuses to share. It just isn’t cricket!”

Tight as an owl – (adj) drunk

Toodle-pip – (interj) good-bye, so long

What ho! – (interj) [exclamatory greeting, like saying what’s up]

What? – (interj) [used as a tag question, often to solicit agreement]: “Evelyn Waugh must be the greatest author of the century, what?”

What’s-it – (n) a gadget or other thing for which the speaker does not know or has forgotten the name

With knobs on – (adv/adj) Extremely; in a similar way, but taken to an extreme: “The same to you with knobs on!”

Not added to the Word List.


Words That Make You Happy …

… for no other reason than the sheer pleasure they give you when you hear them or the happy associations they create for you. There are probably lots of words that make you happy as there are for me.  A smile always comes across my face when I read/hear the following (just a small number that spring to immediate mind):

Asinine – Always have believed this should really be spelled Ass -inine but there again that’s rather silly or stupid probably.

Bifurcate – No, it’s not (as I once thought and still wish it to be) to burp but only to divide into two branches – to fork.  A real opportunity missed there I think.

Inglenook – Warm and cosy place to be in the fireside of a sixteenth century coaching inn on a cold wintry night,


Lollipop – Say it out loud and you can just taste that sticked sugary confection.  The tongue picks up the ‘loll’ and your lips the ‘pop’.  Yummy!


Obsequious – Charles Dickens must have made the character Uriah Heep in David Copperfield with this word very much to the forefront of his mind.  This sickeningly respectful creep just oozes smarm; can’t you just feel his limp fish-like handshake.  Ugh!  Yet fawningly brilliant.  So, this word always makes me think of the character and makes me happy.


Smoodge – There can never be enough ooooooo’s in smoodge.  It’s what my cats do when they’re being friendly.  Supposedly an Australian and New Zealand word that means behaving amorously; sidling up to one.  More fittingly inherited by all mogs of the world.

Waistcoat – There is a quote from HC Wyld, professor of English, Oxford University about 1923 in the book “CS Lewis – A Biography”  by AN Wilson, 1990 which I love and which always makes me much amused: “You’re the sort of people who would say ‘waist-coat’, rather than use the old-fashioned, gentlemanly pronunciation ‘westcut”.  Westcut it is for me!  And most definitely not vest.



Words That Sound Beautiful – Beauty is in the Ear of the Beholder

As has already been mentioned in an earlier post, the purpose of this website is to provide the reader with words which have the sense of being beautiful, either through their construction or the images they bring to our minds.

Now, what is beautiful to one is not necessarily beautiful to another and I am not looking to brook any argument but simply to promote what I recognise as words that sound beautiful to me and hopefully you, too.

The actual meaning doesn’t always have to be known to appreciated the way the word sounds and for a long time I had absolutely no idea what Antediluvian meant only that it sounded beautiful.  The softness of the consonants undoubtedly make it so.

I have learned that the word actually means “concerning or referring to the period before the flood” (OED) – i.e. belonging to a time before even Noah was a lad – and this has only helped increase the loveliness of its sound.

Building_of_the_ark_(Bedford_Master)_2 (The Building of the Ark (Bedford Masters))

The fact that it is often used in a disparaging way to suggest someone belonging to a world long-past and antiquated made it resonate with me even further as I surely fit that bill admirably.

Antediluvian is added to the Word list.


Words That Sound Like Sounds: Onomatopoeia Sizzles!

Great word Onomatopoeia, isn’t it?

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the word as “the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle)”.  Put another way, words that sound like sounds.  I have always been deeply moved by Wilfred Owen’s line in the First World War poem Anthem for Doomed Youth:  “the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle“.

This website is dedicated to the beauty and meaning of words.  The former is of course in the eye of the beholder while meaning is supposedly to be determined by the reader or listener and not the writer.  I am more concerned with the effect of words, what they conjure up in our imaginations rather than their literal meanings.

There is no way that the subject matter of Anthem for Doomed Youth is beautiful, but there is beauty in how “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle” sounds.  The alliteration and onomatopoeic effect which it creates gives us that pleasure.

And there are lots more words that sound like sounds – sizzle, tweet, whizz, zoom for example and lots more – but I am more interested in the music and elegance that words project and the images they convey to you, the listener-reader.

I think of how Schweppes have used their name onomatopoeically to conjure up the sound of a tonic water bottle cap being twisted to release that “ssshhh” sound, but more intriguingly for me is the word that is associated with that ssshhh:  effervescence.  That’s a word where you can hear that fizz and see the bubbles.  Even more so in the pouring of Champagne.


So cheers and we’ll add effervescence to our Word List.


Writers, Students, Lovers of Cool Words

Be Sensible

Feelings generated within us enable the meaning of words to make sense in the context of our own selves.  Not the word’s definition or etymology but the effect it has on us.  This may well have begun in childhood and will therefore rely on our subconscious remembrance of what  word meanings evoke in our imaginations – the sensations they create in us.

Is the word one which makes us happy, sad, reflective, thoughtful?  Does it have an impact on our senses – Sight, Sound, Touch, Vision, Smell?

Smell?  How can a word smell, you may ask?  Easy.  What comes to mind with the word Sulphur, for instance?  Can’t you just smell that burnt match, that rotten egg aroma?  Even the spent match“fuh” sound in the word conjures up something unpleasant on the nose!

Well, it does for me and I am certain it will have an effect for you – whether it is the same as mine depends upon how you derive a meaning of the word and if it is a different meaning fine, neither of us is wrong, we just have differing connections with the word.

I guess in one way we are considering the poetics of words but that is limiting the scope of how we find meaning in words somewhat.  Poetics deals with the sound of words and that is great, but what about the visual element of a word?

In a word like building  you can see the high-rise apartments and homes or offices intermingled here in the artistic structure of the letters of the word.tall buildings

One of my favourite words comes from my schooldays when my English teacher asked the class to consider the word Handkerchief.  It conjures up lace cuffs and an eighteenth century coat or demure ladies in crinolines trying to overcome the effects of the ’vapours’.  It is an evocative word.

It is a peculiarity of language that we must use words to describe words, synonyms, but hopefully you will now recognise that there are other ways of taking meaning from words and you will join me in this wonderfully sensuous journey as we consider the Beauty and Meaning of English Words.

English Words

In speaking of English words, I am referring to words which are now accepted as words used in the communication of the English tongue.  Origins of many words will be Latin, French, German, Anglo-Saxon, Indian and so on;  it is this wonderful intermingling of different languages that make English such a varied and often bemusing one.   That however is not of concern in defining what an English word is in the context of this website.  Let others argue whether a word belongs in the English dictionary or not because it is from Arabic descent and not of Teutonic root.  We have other fish to fry.

That colloquialism reminds me to say that occasionally the word under consideration may in fact be two or three word combinations, such as Cui Bono.  Yes, I know, it’s Latin but it is now part of the English language, so who gains by this?  We do!