Thursday 31 July 2014


I have a strange fondness for frequentatives, frequentative being verbs that happen frequently. So if you spark once, you spark. But if you spark frequently, you sparkle. If you crack once, you crack. But if you crack frequently you crackle. If you charge into somebody once wearing full armour and carrying a lance, you joust. If you do it all the time, you jostle. Burst, bustle. Jog, joggle. Tramp, trample. Scuff, scuffle. Prate, prattle. Wade, waddle.

One that I'd never noticed before was that if you push once then you shove, and if you push repeatedly into the earth with a spade, you shovel. It comes from the Old High German scioban.

But there is a second shove frequentative. If you shove one foot forward, and then the other and so on and so forth, you shuffle.

Which is a long way round of saying that I'll be speaking at the Shuffle Festival in East London on Sunday at 3pm about death, sex and toilets.


  1. Thank you - I didn't even know the word 'frequentive' and now I love them too.
    You mention 'burst' and 'bustle' but my dicker says 'bustle' comes from the Old Norse 'busk' meaning 'to prepare'. So it is an example of a frequentive that has lost its infrequentive (if that is a word).

  2. Now I am looking for the etymology of 'cobbles' as in the road surface beloved by set designers for period dramas. Most say it comes from 'cob', meaning a lump somewhere between a stone and a boulder. So does that mean that cobble is what you get when you lay lots of cobs?