Turnkey and Sawbones #Anglish #PlainEnglish

May 30, 2020

Here are two lovely words we don’t hear enough: turnkey and sawbones. We may not hear them much nowadays, but their meaning is clear: “jailor” and “surgeon”. You might have wondered or forgotten why the doctor from the original  Star Trek was nicknamed “Bones”; well, here’s the reason. I just cannot get enough of lively words like these that bring a strong image to your mind’s eye. Why use the Latinate, more usual alternatives, when we have this kind of brilliant language to use instead?

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.treknews.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/deforest-kelley-bones-star-trek.jpg

selfsame #Anglish #PlainEnglish

March 15, 2020

“Selfsame”, sometimes written “self-same”, means “identical, exact”. I see no grounds to keep on using the French and Latin words “identical” and “exact” when we have the lovely word “selfsame”.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Funnyman = Comedian #Anglish #PlainEnglish

February 16, 2020

As you can see from the above still from Netflix (if you zoom in), “funnyman” is another word for “comedian”. The word “comedian” is from the French comédien which at the time meant a comic poet. The Old English word was heahtorsmið “laughter-maker”. I really like how the OE word inholds the word “smith”. But perhaps new-words like “laughtersmith” or “laughtermaker” are just too far out for most folk to take onboard — although I have seen “mirth-maker”(!) But good news, we already have the ready-made, homeborn alternative: funnyman. “Funnyman” has actually been in use since the mid-nineteenth century, so it’s well-established.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from Netflix

Backbones #Anglish #PlainEnglish

February 15, 2017


We talk of someone having or needing to get a backbone. This of course means to get a spine. But we don’t just use “backbone” metaphorically; the word “backbone” has meant a literal spine ever since the early 1300s.

“Spine” is from the Latin spina. So a plain Saxon English / Anglish alternative for spine is backbone.

It then struck me that the backbone itself is actually made of lots of little bones: vertebrae. Each of these is surely a backbone, too. So we have backbones made of backbones? Or perhaps, made of backbonelings… I wasn’t happy with this wordmess. And then I remembered that knuckle doesn’t just mean the finger joint, it also refers to any (particularly knobbly) joint of the body. Thus, your backbone is made up of knuckles; or to be overly clear, back-knuckles. No need to use Latin spine or vertebra or that dodgy outlandish plural –ae.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.healthline.com/hlcmsresource/images/topic_centers/osteoarthritis/642×361-Treating_Spinal_Stenosis-Exercise_Surgery_and_More.jpg

Gite #PlainEnglish #Anglish

February 1, 2017


I love house-buying shows. Mostly they look at homes in Spain or Portugual. But today they were looking in France. Just when you thought estate-agent-speak couldn’t get worse than bijou, cosy (=cramped), and the like, I learnt a new word: gîte. After about three minutes, and hearing it several times, the word had already begun to irk me. After an hour, I was ready to start stabbing.

So far as I can tell, the word means a small cottage or annex, self-catering. The Oxford English wordbook defines it as:

A stopping-place, lodging … a furnished or self-catering holiday home, usu. in a rural district.

Call me a “luddite” if you will, but what is wrong with (French-style) self-board holiday home/cot(e)? Or if that’s too overly specific, what about hire holiday home?

I think gîte, even without its little letter-hat (gite), is needless,  pretentious, dreck.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.hotel-r.net/im/hotel/fr/gîte-61.jpg

Hybrid #PlainEnglish #Anglish #PureEnglish

December 19, 2016


hybrid (noun) c. 1600, “offspring of plants or animals of different variety or species,” from Latin hybrida, variant of ibrida “mongrel,” specifically “offspring of a tame sow and a wild boar,” of unknown origin but probably from Greek and somehow related to hubris. A rare word before the general sense “anything a product of two heterogeneous things” emerged c. 1850. The adjective is attested from 1716. As a noun meaning “automobile powered by an engine that uses both electricity and gasoline,” 2002, short for hybrid vehicle, etc.

hybridize (verb)

From the Online Etymology Dictionary

We can see indeed from our day-to-day experience that the words hybrid and hybridize are growing in popularity. But what’s wrong with our own Saxon words for these things?

The nameword (noun) is either: cross, crossbreed, or mongrel. I suggest a further word: blendbreed. Obviously, as far as “hybrid” cars go, “cross” is probably the best fit. We might also say half-and-half or half-half cars. And note that mongrel can (but needn’t) have negatives tones, whereas cross and crossbreed are more judgement-free.

The deedword (verb) can therefore either be: cross, crossbreed, and blendbreed.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-XggVsuU-4bs/T6c-uQx-47I/AAAAAAAAAJg/2LnX1gmPlV0/s1600/Toyota_Yaris_Hybrid.jpg



September 5, 2016


Me and a mate were chatting with an Albanian guy we met. He mistook my Anglo-Mexican mate for Algerian. That happens to him a lot. I  myself was mistaken for part-Italian. That doesn’t happen a lot. In any case, I’m 100% pure English (read: white with a touch of lobsteritis).*

But despite being a homeland-loving Englishman, I was happy with being mistaken for half-Italian. I didn’t mind being taken for a southern European. Nor would my mate. We wondered aloud on this for a moment. I came to the conclusion that southern Europeans have a kind of… and the word “lifefulness” popped out of my mouth. That is, they’re full of life. Of course, the standard English would be vitality.

Vitality noun Lifefulness
Vital adjective (not in the sense of important) Lifeful

Lifefulness: another nonce word, like shadow-outline, that I think I’m going to use a lot more from now on in.

*My Welsh last name is not from a blood relative… except during Euro 2016, when I told people I was genetically Welsh.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cdn.tinybuddha.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Vitality.jpg

A cup of cheeno (A cappuccino): Renaming Coffees

November 2, 2012

So, being a regular southern dandy and wannabe highmind, I drink in coffeeshops all the time, darling. But, even so, I still find coffeeshop jargon to be really irksome. I mean, “venti”… what the hell!? However, the following article should be of interest to people who read my blog. Debenhams have renamed their coffees into “plain” English. Not sure if I agree with the artfulness of their decisions, but here’s the article.

(Before the article, however, I thought I would make the following suggestions:

cafe latte = milky-coffee, milk-coffee

cappuccino = frothy-coffee, froth-coffee

mocha = chocolatey-coffee, chocolate-coffee

espresso = strong black coffee

and of course… small, medium/middle, large/big, instead of tall, venti, and grande)



A latte? That’s now a ‘really, really milky coffee’ in Debenhams

TelegraphBy Andrew Trotman | Telegraph – 20 hours ago

Debenhams (Berlin: D2T.BEnews) has vowed to end “coffee confusion” by replacing words such as latte and cappuccino with plain English on its menus.

The British retailer said that more than 70pc of its customers struggle with foreign names of hot drinks, so it decided to get back to basics.

A caffe latte is now called a “really, really milky coffee”, while a cappuccino has become a “frothy coffee”, and a caffe mocha has been changed to a “chocolate flavoured coffee”. Black coffee has been replaced with “simple coffee, with or without milk”, while an espresso is labelled “a shot of strong coffee”.

But Debenhams hasn’t just stopped at its types of coffees. Instead of the tall, grande or venti sizes favoured by big-name shops such as Starbucks (NasdaqGS: SBUXnews) , customers in Debenhams can now simply ask for a cup or mug.

John Baker, director of food services at Debenhams says: “We’re trialling a redesign of our coffee menu in Oxford Street so shoppers spend less time playing coffee Cluedo and more time enjoying their favourite drink.”

The retailer reportedly sells more than 100,000 coffees each week in its 160 cafes and restaurants across the UK and Ireland (Xetra: A0Q8L3news) – double the amount of tea.

Do you struggle with coffee names?

My Heartfelt Sorries

October 1, 2012

Hallo all,

I am very sorry for not being round lately. I’ve had (and still have) many other projects going on. Asides from my screenwriting and a bunch of language projects, I’m also studying Theology at university and, to that end, learning Koine Greek (Greek from 2000 years ago!). Not to mention actual full-time work as a teacher! So, I won’t be around as much as I had been, but I’m still here: Anglish is a lifelong love affair and I won’t be leaving it ever (I doubt!)

Just a couple of little thoughts.

1. Why not use “Sorry” as a noun to overset “apology”? I see no reason why not.

2. NB, or nota bene, is Latin for “note well” and it pops up a lot in adademic writing. I thought that “heed well (HW)” would be a good alternative.

What do you all think?


Bryan Parry

October 2012

Linguistic Terminology (I) — Word Classes

June 10, 2012


In previous posts, I have said how I believe building up vocabulary piecemeal is a bad idea. Subject areas should be tackled in turn. I think this because words don’t just exist in themselves, but exist in the context of other words. Being an English teacher, and a linguistics graduate, I thought I would therefore tackle the area of Language terminology. However, I’ll only deal with the word classes today (nouns, verbs, and so on), as to tackle the entire field of linguistics would make this a very long post.

I should also say that I’ve avoided simply making up a term for the sake of it, and have only suggested words that I think really work. Therefore, there are some words which I deliberately do not bring up or suggest an Anglish alternative for.

So let’s trying putting those pesky, Latinate language words into a plainer, Saxon English.

Word classes: Nouns, Verbs, Prepositions, and all that

Nouns, usually described as a “person, place, or thing”, are literally naming words, they name concepts and things (John, London, bedroom, carpet, happiness). The word “noun” comes from the Latin nōmen “name”, so the choice of Nameword is easy. Compare Dutch naamwoord.

Verbs are usually described to students as “doing words”, which is what they mostly are: run, punch, walk, kiss. But they also indicate states, e.g., love, appear, seem. Therefore either Doword or Doingword work quite well. As does Deedword, which is “deed” – literally, a done thing, an action – plus “word” [NOTE 1]. Workword sets over Dutch werkwoord, and also strikes me as a good fit for the various senses of the word “work”.

Auxiliary verbs are literally helper verbs, such as “do” or “have”. Therefore Helpword works well, as does Help plus any one of the above suggestions for “verb”: Helpworkword, Helpdeedword, Helpdoingword, or Helpdoword.

Conjunctions (and, but, or) quite plainly serve to link other words and phrases; they are linking words. At the risk of being completely unimaginative, how about Linkword? The Latinate word itself, “conjunction”, means a joining or linking together.

Adjectives are words which describe nouns. So in the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the brown dog”, “quick” and “brown” describe the noun “fox”, and “brown” describes the noun “dog”.

The English word “adjective” ultimately comes from the Latin nomen adjectivum, meaning something like “joined onto a noun”. Dutch has bijvoeglijk naamwoord, bijvoegen meaning “to attach, attach, enclose”, and bijvoeglijk therefore being the adjectival form “attached”; this would appear to be a Latin calque. We can see that both the Latin and the Dutch don’t so much have to do with the function of the adjective, but rather the adjective’s dependent relationship with nouns. German has Eigenschaftswort which oversets as “particularity/ownship word”. That is, a word which specifies which type of noun we are talking about (is it a “red car” or a “green” one, for example).

“Describing-word” would be the plainest, but “describe” is Latinate. Therefore we could say Outlineword, because to “describe” something is surely the same as to “outline” it. If we wanted to take the shades of meaning of the Latin or Dutch words, we could also say Stuckonword or Cleaveword. I favour Outlineword or Outliner.

Adposition. Okay, so what’s an “adposition”? Well, “prepositions”, which we have in English, come before the noun phrase, whereas “postpositions”, which we do not have in English, come after the noun phrase; “adposition” is a term covering both “pre-“ and “post-“ positions.

So an adposition is a word which tells us the spatial or temporal or syntactic relationship between things. In English we have in, on, through, by, and so on. For “preposition”, Dutch has voorzetsel ‘foreputting’ which makes a lot of sense as the word is not only “fore-put”, but also relates to where words are put in their spatial, semantic, or syntactic relations. Danish has forslag ‘foreslap’, which I’m not so keen on. I’m not 100% happy, but I feel Putword is a good alternative to “adposition”, so “preposition” and “postposition” respectively become Foreputword and Afterputword. I also quite like Foreputting and Afterputting.

Demonstratives point out exactly which thing one is talking about. In current English we have “this”, “these”, “that”, and “those”. So, they point out things. “Point out” is a phrasal verb; the go-along noun, that is a thing which points something out, would either be point-out or outpointer. So either Pointoutword or Outpointer.

Phrases are literally clusters of words in a grammatical configuration. Wordcluster? German has Redewendung ‘speechturn, turn of speech’ and Setz ‘set’. Speechturn? Speechset?

I haven’t come up with alternatives for many wordclasses, as you can see. But that isn’t just because I lack the imagination to come up with suitable words. There is a second, more valid reason. That is, many of the words are rather technical (morpheme? Complementiser?) and therefore are beyond the scope of this post; I’ll revisit them later.


Bryan Parry


[NOTE 1] I believe “deedword” was originally suggested by the person who owns this blog: http://rootsenglish.wordpress.com/


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