Wednesday, 10 March 2010


London is in the grip of unending winter and every brass monkey is bereft. Shelley once asked "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" and the answer to his question is Abso-bloody-lutely. It is permanently and perpetually parky, which is tramps' slang because parks are colder than doorways. This arctic chill means that I am often afflicted, especially in the early mornings, by horripilation. I horripilate.

I horripilate horribly.

Horripilation is the rising of the hairs on the skin caused by cold, or sometimes fear. It is the bristling that accompanies goosebumps. Horreo in Latin meant to bristle or stand on end. So horripilation is the direct descendant whilst horrible is a changeling child that, like petrified, refers merely to the effects of fear.

Incidentally, the creeps, as in "That picture gives me the creeps", was first recorded, and perhaps invented by, Dickens, along with mooreeffoc.

P.S. There's an excellent piece on the etymology of brass monkeys here.

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