Monday, 18 July 2011

Qualm


Somebody mentioned having "no qualms" about something on Saturday night, and it made me wonder what a qualm actually was. A quick check in the dictionary told me that a qualm could be the cry of a raven. But the qualm of conscience turned out to be one of those weakening words, like naughty.

Back in Old English qualm meant violent death, pestilence and plague. In fact, a qualm was anything that was monstrously and bloodily horrific. A qualm-house was a torture chamber, a qualm-stow was a place of execution.

Then, in the sixteenth century, it started to mean a period of suffering, like a bout of fever. Then it began to mean a brief illness, and then a faint feeling of discomfort. And it's from that last meaning that we get the modern ever-so-delicate qualm of conscience.

This means, that you can have no qualms about committing qualms.

Now, I'm off to a qualm-house to feel qualmish.

Many qualms and none

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