Wednesday 26 November 2014


I was reading the excellent Twelve Curious Deaths in France by John Goldsmith, when I found that one of the characters was described as having:

…what I always thought was an excessive veneration of The Blessed Virgin, at time almost amounting to Collyridianism.

You see, Collyridianism is one of my favourite words, but it’s very hard to drop it into conversation. Unless the conversation happens to be about the heretical belief that the Virgin Mary is herself a goddess, which the conversation very rarely is.

Partially, I like it because of it sounds a bit like collywobbles and a bit like Collyweston (an old word for nonsense). But it’s related to neither of them. Etymologically, comes from the Greek kollurida, which meant little cakes. This is because the original Collyridians would bake little cakes and sacrifice them to Mary. Actually, that’s another reason I like the word. I like the fact that there’s a heresy named after cake.

Anyway, I thoroughly recommend Twelve Curious Deaths in France, if you like mysterious, funny short stories.



  1. Lovely word but I think I'll be harder-pressed than you to work that into a conversation. Oh, I just did!

  2. As heresy may ultimately come from words meaning "choice" this illuminates the classic Eddie Izzard routine "Cake or Death".

  3. It's a shame the definition of "a balanced diet" isn't "a piece of cake in each hand".

  4. I'm new here, but I will be back to read some more and let some of my followers know about you too. I found you through Rosalind Adams blog and I'm so glad I did. Lot's to learn here.

  5. I've just found you via Rosalind Adam and I'm an instant fan! Anyone who can write about words the way you do is for me! A lovely post and a good book suggestion too. Thank you! I'll be back!

  6. PS, And the fact there is a specific word dedicated to belief in Mary as a goddess is just so inspiring. I never cease to be amazed about the words I don't know!