Wednesday 21 December 2011


Christmas is the season when strange men in red hats and white beards lurk and loiter in every shopping arcade. It's therefore the time when the word misopogonistically really comes into its own.

Misopogonistically is an adverb that means with a hatred of beards. Sample sentence:

"No I don't want to see what's in your grotto," she said and scowled misopogonistically.

It is, I confess, a rare word and nobody will know what you mean, but with some words incomprehensibility is half the fun. Even more obscurely, the original Byzantine Greek word from which English things misopogonistical derive, had the more specialised meaning of disliking bearded philosophers. It pleases me immensely that the search for truth might be based on facial hair.

I came across this misopogonistically whilst trying to do some further research on yesterday's rather hurried post on possible antonyms for bibliophile; you see it's just a couple down from misogrammatist, which means a hater of learning.

However, I think the readers' suggestions were much better than anything that the whole history of the English language has produced - a regular gallimaufry of linguistic pearls. I particularly liked the various misobiblical coinings, and the Latin odilibri, which, if stressed on the second syllable*, is quite beautiful to say.

Incidentally, The Etymologicon continues to be read very well by Hugh Dennis on Radio 4. Here's a link to today's episode. In fact, it's almost certainly Mr Dennis' splendid voice (or maybe Dan Mogford's lovely cover) that's sent the book stumbling so far up the bestseller lists that it's currently number 3 on Amazon's charts, a vertiginous height from which it will almost certainly toboggan gaily into remaindered lowlands. Still, fun while it lasts.

This is James Murray, the original(ish) editor of the OED, whom I wrote about here.

*I know it shouldn't be, but do try it.


  1. Excellent! Enjoy the well deserved vertigo whilst ye can!

  2. I purchased your book today as a Christmas present and have been reading it ever since. This means tomorrow I have to go shopping again, but more importantly, love the book. Only one thing, what's wrong with the poem Invictus?!

  3. Sean, thank you.
    Katie, I shall devote a post to it someday.