Word Play

Yes, I’m much recovered. Thank you for asking.

It’s been a slow week with nothing like as much work achieved as should have been but I had some fun while waiting for the catarrh to clear and some clarity of mind to return.

Funny word, catarrh. It’s from the Greek verb katarrein, which basically means to flow down profusely and yet still sounds exactly right for something that doesn’t so much flow as hang around bunging up orifices with its impenetrable claggitude.  Claggitude isn’t from the Greek word for anything. I made it up.

Some of my friends, nay, some of my writer friends, take exception to my invention of words. Writers are not always fun people. I think some of them feel the English language is quite rich enough without any tinkering on my part. And it is rich. There’s a lot of argument about how many words we actually have at our disposal, certainly a quarter of a million. Suffice it to say we have a lot more than most languages. We are word-wealthy. But does that mean we’re prohibited from inventing more? Is there an internationally policed quota?

Doing my Russian homework this week I discovered to my astonishment that Russians have no word for toes. This is the country that put the first man in space, and yet they call toes ‘leg fingers’. Pitiful, isn’t it? Obviously we could Fedex them a word, though Russia can be rather touchy about foreign aid.  And when you think about it, why should we? Surely a country that produced Tolstoy, Pushkin and Dostoevsky, a country that single-handedly revived the word ‘oligarch’, could toss a few Scrabble tiles around and come up with something.

The Russian for leg fingers (I know you’re dying to learn this) transliterates as paltsie nagee. Which sounds, don’t you think, like the name of a firm-jawed Hungarian who ran away to Hollywood in the 1920s and changed his name to something like Lyle Ford? Alternatively he could have changed his name to Nigel Eastpea. It wouldn’t have sounded as sexy in the movie trailers but would have had the interesting talking point of being an anagram of paltsie nagee. I leave it with you.

No, I’m not taking any medication for catarrhal claggitude. These are just my normal ravings.



  1. Elizabeth Dunn on September 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Nigel Eastpea!! Love it. Your mind thrives on claggitude. Give me some immediately.

    • Laurie Graham on September 22, 2012 at 5:24 am

      Be careful what you wish for, Elizabeth!

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