Susie Dent will help you articulate your emotions when everything has gone doolally and you’ve had enough.
No one thought this year was going to be easy, but few of us predicted so many days that left us, frankly, ‘blutterbunged’. This old word for being overwhelmed or overtaken by surprise is in my view matched only ‘gloppened’, another dialect word that means open-mouthed in amazement. So if it feels as though you really can’t believe your eyes, on repeat, here are a few choice phrases from the past for getting away from it all and suspending reality and its unwelcome surprises entirely.
Before you begin your retreat, you need to find somewhere to spend it, and this is where the ‘hibernacle’ comes in. Strictly speaking, this word is used for hibernating animals, but it extends itself nicely to any refuge where we can wait out the winter until sunnier climes return.
If no fully-kitted hibernacle is available, there are always dark recesses in which to retreat. Here you will need the verb ‘latibulate’, meaning very simply ‘to hide oneself in a corner’.
Snudging, from the 16th century, is one of a host of words conveying the joy of a close snuggle. Many begin with those two letters ‘sn’, perhaps because they simply sound so snoozy.
‘Coorie’ is the Scots equivalent of the English ‘cower’, and it can equally describe the act of stooping low for protection. To ‘coorie’ has however the added dimension of nestling down and settling in for the duration.
Snuggling requires particular clothes. Nothing tight-waisted or itchy, and certainly nothing creasable. Bring in the ‘huffle-buffs’, another wonderful word from the Scottish National Dictionary for old, baggy clothes – presumably the elasticated and highly fluffy kind.
This Swedish word for ‘the place where the wild strawberries grow’ is more than the sum of its parts. This is a special location that is kept in our memory, and that may be returned to whenever recovery and peace are required.
Strictly speaking, the wonderful ‘recombobulate’ is not yet recognized by any dictionary. But Milwaukee’s Mitchell airport has rather joyfully created a ‘Recombobulation Lounge’, where travellers may gather their belongings and equilibrium after passing through Security.
Happily, the dictionary does give us ‘gruntled’, largely thanks to P.G. Wodehouse who introduced it as a deliberate antonym of ‘disgruntled’. To be gruntled is therefore to be highly content indeed.
Another for the snuggle lexicon, which means lying comfortably and still. It joins ‘neezling’, ‘snoozling’, ‘snuggening’ and ‘croodling’ as a means of expressing lying quietly, even when chaos may be unfolding around you.
There is ‘zwodder’, and there is ‘swadder’. These siblings both express the idea of what is defined in the English Dialect Dictionary as a ‘stupid state of body and mind’, but while ‘zwodder’ expresses a luxurious kind of laziness, ‘swadder’ has the more precise meaning of ‘growing weary with drinking’. Both are entirely possible in the hibernacle, of course.
Want to hear more from Susie Dent about the infinitely bizarre and fascinating world of language? She’s speaking to the top brass of British comedy and entertainment about just that, and it’s all free to listen to here on whynow.