Contain #Anglish #PlainEnglish

December 5, 2020

English has the Latinate word contain. What does contain actually mean? Spanish, a Latin language, also has this verb, contener, yet in Spanish the meaning is self-clear: con “with” + tener “have/hold”. Literally, “with-have” or “with-hold” (although note that “withhold” has quite a different meaning in English).

How do Germanic languages form a word for “contain”? Well, Swedish has inhåller, lit. “in-hold”. Dutch has inhouden, lit. “in-hold”. And German has… enthalten, which means… you get the point.

It’s looking like “inhold” (with the preposition used as a prefix, like “behold”) or “hold in” (with the preposition separate from the word, like “look up”) are the best options.

This glass inholds/holds half a pint in.

Sounds pretty good to me. As does “withinhold” or “hold within”, which perhaps makes the meaning more explicit.

This bucket withinholds/holds a gallon within.

Although, the simpler “hold” and “have” or “can hold/have” would often work better.

This bucket can have/can hold a gallon.

Derived words are easily formed, such as inholder and inholding. Not to forget other words we could use instead, such as “holder” or “box”.

In any case, with the words have and hold, and the Germanic formations inhold and hold in (and/or withinhold and hold within), I think we can do without the Latinish “contain”.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Full- #Anglish #PlainEnglish

November 4, 2020

English is so full of it! The word “full”, that is. “Full” is the 513th most common word in the English language. And considering there are over a million words, that’s not bad going.

English likes the word so much that it has been co-opted as a common suffix: –ful.

But did you know that English can use “full” as a kind of sham-prefix, the first element of a compound. Essentially, it produces verbs and adjectives with the same kind of meaning as the self-standing word “full” and the suffix “-ful”, that is, ‘full of, having, or characterised by X’.

Sadly, we haven’t used it productively for a long time. It’s hard to see why, though, given the allwhereness of “full” and “-ful”. Here are some examples from Old and Middle English.

  • OE fulbrecan ‘to violate’ (full + breach/break, that is, to fully breach/break)
  • OE fulslean ‘to kill outright’ (full + slay)
  • OE fulripod ‘mature’ (full + ripened)
  • ME ful-comen ‘attain (a state), realise (a truth)’ (full + come)
  • ME ful-lasting ‘durability’ (full + lasting)
  • ME ful-thriven ‘complete, perfect’ (full + thriven)

Not all of these formations make much sense in Modern English, but it’s easy to see the power of this kind-of prefix use of “full” and how it could greatly widen and deepen the English wordstock.

Funnily enough, I have ingested one too many tomes of poetry over the years, and have long since been using full-, totally unthinkingly, for years and years. Perhaps I have already been spreading the seed of this affix.

Here are some put-forward words. Add your own!

fullbreach: to violate
fullripe: mature (note that “ripe” mostly fits well for “mature”, although there are cases where “mature” means almost-but-not-quite overripe, and in this sense especially, it seems “fullripe” is a useful word)
full-lasting: lasting the needed length. This is different to longlasting which basically means “durable”.
full-done: completed (successfully)

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Davies, M. & Gardner, D. (2011) A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English. Routldge, p. 35

Something Fishy #Anglish #PlainEnglish

October 13, 2020

Why say suspicious when you can say fishy? It’s a much more evocative word! This sense of fishy seems to come from the notion of slipperiness.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Adumbrate #PlainEnglish #Anglish

October 7, 2020

Andrew Neil is a wonderful journalist and interviewer, but what is not wonderful was the use of the word “adumbrate” which he used on the 25th of September 2020. What does “adumbrate” mean? It’s from the Latin adumbrat- meaning “shaded, shadowed”. It has three meanings in English: to overshadow, to foreshadow, and to outline. What is wrong with these fine Saxon words? Nothing. Let’s bin off this Latin monster and use our plain English instead.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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

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Century #Anglish #PlainEnglish

January 17, 2017


The twenty-first century, a test century in cricket, a Roman century led by a centurion. Century means, as we all know, one hundred — of anything. The words come from the Latin centuria. But why bother with “century” at all? We have the word hundred! And the madness doesn’t stop there.

We have homegrown words for ten, hundred, and thousand. Yet we borrow the words for the same periods of years: decade, century, millennium? German gets by quite well with homegrown Jahrzehnt, Jahrhundert, and Jahrtausand; literally, ‘year-ten’, ‘year-hundred’, and ‘year-thousand’. So why can’t English?

Of course, in English we can just say things like “ten years” or “tens of years”. But a lot of the time this doesn’t quite work. These are descriptive phrases, when what we sometimes really want is one noun that pithily expresses the same concept. So in step decade, century, and millenium as our lexical saviours.

Yet it wasn’t always so.

Century only came into English in the 1530s with the sense of “hundred”. It only took on the meaning “period of a hundred years” in around the 1650s as a short form of the phrase “a century of years”. Likewise, decade only came into English in the mid-fifteenth century meaning “ten parts”, it acquiring the sense of “period of ten years” in the 1590s. And millennium, in the sense of any thousand year period, is only recorded from 1711.

So what did we say before then?

Confusingly, the Old English word for decade was hund. Century was ældu, as in eld, elder, old. Compare Modern Idelandic öld ‘century’.

These wouldn’t work for nowadays English. So what should we do?

  • When you can swap decade, century, or millenium out for the following phrases with no awkwardness or unnaturalness, then do so: ten years, tens of years, a hundred years, hundreds of years, a thousand years, thousands of years.
  • When you mean a group or amount of, then say tenfold, a group of ten, hundredfold, a group of hundred, thousandfold, a group of a thousand.
  • When you want to say “the twentieth century” (and so on), say “the 1900s” instead — like in Swedish.
  • You can also say ton for hundred, especially in money or speed or sport.

And when these don’t work, I say that Germanising “year-ten” is too un-English. I put forward the following.

1. Ten-year, hundred-year, thousand-year

“I met your Mum three ten-years ago”: cannot be mistaken for “ten years ago”.
“The Battle of Hastings was almost a thousand-year ago”: cannot be mistaken for “a thousand years ago”
“The twentieth hundred-year was a time of great change”: cannot be mistaken for anything.

2. I also put forward, on the analogy of “century of years” being simplified to “century”, these: ten, hundred, thousand.

“It’s been hundreds since England had a separate parliament”
“Tens ago, mobile phones was science fiction”
“Stonehenge was built thousands ago”

3. Swedish also provides a good model with hundratal: hundred-deal. Deal of course can mean amount or quantity, as in “a good deal of rain”.

ten-deal, hundred-deal, thousand-deal.

© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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November 14, 2016


The verb “to collaborate” can easily be put into plain English by saying “to work with”. Indeed, this is exactly what “collaborate” means in Latin: com– ‘with’ + labore ‘to work’. But what about “collaborator” and “collaboration”? The fairly useless word “collaborate” looks like it’s being buttressed by these two words, as well as by the negative, traitorous sense. Indeed, perhaps “collaborator” is slowly coming to mean something like “traitor”, and thus the time might be right for “collaborator” to be shuffled off.

We could turn the verb phrase “work with” into the phrasewords “withworker” and “withworking”. However, “with” when used as a kind of prefix actually means “against”; look at “withstand” (stand against, resist), “withhold” (hold back), and “withdraw” (draw back). The reason for this weirdly counter-intuitive situation is that in Old English, “with” (wiþ) meant ‘against’. The meaning of wiþ changed under the influence of phrases like “fight with”. The eremost (original) English word for the concept of “with” was “mid” — this still lives on in words like “midwife” (literally, ‘with wife/woman’).

So we have two choices here.

  1. Extend the nearly-dead usage of mid- to mean “with” and with- to mean “against”, even though it runs counter to how these words work when not compounded/prefixed.
  2. Write off current with- and mid- as relics, patterns too irretrievably lost to bring back, and make a new prefix with-.

Option one gives us midworker and midworking. Option two gives us withworker and withworking.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Pizzle #Anglish #PlainEnglish

November 1, 2016


Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!
Henry IV Part I – Act II, Scene iv [1]

Now that I’ve got a dog, it’s come to my attention that the word pizzle, featured memorably in the above Shakespearean quote, is still used. “Bull’s pizzle” is sold as a treat for dogs. A pizzle is properly the penis of an animal, often a bull but not needfully so. The word is Germanic and seems to be borrowed from Low German or Dutch. Why not let’s start using it again? Maybe for human knobs as well — which I have already begun doing.

The Old English word was pintel, which nowadays is/would be spelt “pintle”. I’ve tried slipping that in to conversations, too. Whilst “pintle” and “pizzle” cannot be classed as smuggle-words, they never-the-less do seem to be understood within context without folk piping up. Probably because they are, phonologically-speaking, not a million miles away from “penis”.

But why bother? Straight-forwardly put: “penis” is a Latin word. Originally a euphemism, but one that, to my ears, doesn’t sound sweet.

I cannot stand the word “penis”, which for me not only isn’t Saxon English, it isn’t even English at all. What kind of word is “penis”? Some kind of gibberish, like “vagina” (which I can barely bring myself to say) or “defecate”. I use a variety of the following depending on context, register, and politeness: willy, knob, prick, dick, cock, man part. Other words are used for humorous effect only, such as “John Thomas” or “love-weapon”. I don’t see why pizzle and/or pintle cannot be used as a “polite” swap for the word penis.


© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Natural Functions Part One: Shitting #Anglish #PlainEnglish

August 17, 2016


Eating, drinking, shagging, shitting: what could be more natural than these four things? In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the fourth: shitting.

It’s always irked me that on public toilets, the lock reads “engaged” or “vacant”. Why not the Saxon English “busy” and “free” instead?

imageThe room itself is a “toilet”, which is a French word. In British English, we half-jokingly call it the “bog“, a solid Saxon word (in heart, if not in genes!). I say “half” jokingly, as this is more-or-less the go-to word that I use!

Americans call it the “bathroom” when they’re being polite — another true English word. But I find this usage ridiculous: my answer to, “Where’s the bathroom?” is, “Oh, off for a bath are we?”… or, at least, that would be my answer if I wasn’t so English and well-mannered! I’ve also heard “restroom” — more Saxon English.

In Britain, we can also call it a “lav/lavvy” or a “loo“. The former comes from Latin lavatorium, but is a bishop-shifting thereof, so isn’t too bad. And the latter’s birth is unclear, but may be a pun on “Waterloo” (as in, “water closet”) or from the French lieux d’aisances.

imagePeople I know, including me, often call it a “shithouse“, more salty Saxon, although many would find this rude. And when a toilet it outside, we all call it an “outhouse” — Saxon wins yet again. And we see again how great -house is!

Of course, in many languages and not just English, it is known as a “WC“, short for “water closet”. “Water” is good Saxon, but “closet” is French; we could say the “C” stands for “cupboard”, too. “Cupboard” of course refers to shelves (boards) with cups on them, yet “Cupboard” now just refers to any small room/inbuilt storage space. (mark well: it’s true that “cup” is Latin, but it was borrowed in the Old English period and throughout the Germanic languages).

And then there’s “little boys’ room“, “powder room”, and I often use “my thinking room” — as it seems to be the only place I can get peace and quiet at times! — or “newspaper reading room”. Although “powder” isn’t homeborn English, and “boy” might not be Germanic.

In any case, plenty of choices other than “toilet”.

imageThe porcelain thing you sit on itself is also known as a “toilet”. And in Britain, we use “bog” to refer to the place you sit as well a the room. I often call it, jokingly, a “glory seat” — though “Glory” isn’t homeborn English (“wuldor” was our own word, but that is deader than Harold II). “Shit-seat“, “shitter“, “shit-hole” (although mostly in metaphorical use) are words I use, and I have heard “crapper” and “crap-stool“. Therefore, “shit-stool” should work. You may have noticed that in polite English we refer to one’s “stools”; this literally comes from the word “stool” (which is the homeborn and original general use word for “chair”). Yes, historically, the toilet thing itself was known as a “stool“. But I actually think I might like to keep “shit-stool” to gloss “commode”! Or perhaps, on the analogy of the “bed-pan”, a “commode” should be a “seatpan” or “stoolpan“.

imageIn public men’s toilets, there is often the urinal as well. When it is a bowl, that is for individual use, I call it a “pissbowl” or a “weebowl“. When it is a trough, a long one for several men, I call it a “pisstrough” or a “weetrough“. “Urine cakes” are, of course, “weecakes” or “pisscakes” — or, as a euphemism, “yellow-cakes” (as most are yellow).

imagePosh houses, and European houses, also have a bidet. William Barnes, the nineteenth century poet and one of the Gods of the Anglish movement, came up with the unbestable word “saddle-bath“, for it is literally a bath which you saddle. I used to call it a “bum/bottom-sink”, but “saddle-bath” is so much better.

Speaking of which: please, American cousins, stop saying “basin” and “faucet”; use the true English “sink” and “tap“.

imageBy the way, we wash our hands with “soap”, but we wash our hair with “shampoo”. Now, I don’t mind “shampoo”; it’s a lovely left-over part of our hundreds of years in India (for it is a Hindi word champo). But why not just say “hairsoap“? By the way, I do often say that.

And last of all, what do we do in the bog? Or at least, what are we meant to do! Defecate/defecation and excrement, urine/urinate and micturate/micturition are unacceptable nonsense. I like it better when folk call a “spade” a “spade”: it’s “shit(e)” and “piss“, guys (both noun and verb).

But if you can’t bear such words, we have other Saxon softer words.  These include “poo“, “plop“, “dung“, “number two“, “turd“, and we’ve already met “stool” and its verb form “pass a stool“. For the other thing, we have “wee“, for a noun and a verb, and the verb “pass water“.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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July 18, 2016


German has the wonderful word Schmuggelware. This means “contraband”. Literally, “smuggle-ware”; what better describes smuggled wares than the word “smuggle-ware”? I mean, what a wonderful, self-explaining Germanic compound if ever there was one! Ever since I came across the word Schmuggelware, I have loan translated it into English as smuggle-ware (with or without the dash) whenever I have needed to use the word “contraband”.

Smuggle-ware is therefore an example of what I call a “smuggle-word“! A “smuggle-word” is literally an Anglish/true Saxon English word, often made-up and non-extant, which I attempt to smuggle into the English language. In other words, I use the word and hope that noone notices that I have used a non-standard or non-extant word(!) Smuggle-words are characterised by seeming very English, almost as if they have been in use all along.

As I say, smuggle-ware is a great example of a smuggle-word. Others that I use are shadow-outline, forelast (“penultimate”), and self-standing. Indeed, my try at Anglish, call it “Project Wrixlings” if you will, is characterised by using Saxon English words and phrases that already exist — and where they don’t exist, they are so natural, often implied, that they seem like they really ought to exist.

Smuggle-words can also include words that are no longer in use, such as deadhouse (mortuary). A word such as “ghostfire”, one suggestion for a true Saxon alternative to the Greek “electricity”, would not be a “smuggle-word” as I cannot see how one would be able to smuggle that into one’s English.

So smuggling words into English, hidden in plain sight amongst normal (perhaps even highly Greco-Latinised) English, is another great tool to spread true, Saxon, homeborn English.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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