Tag Archives: dictionaries

Feeling a Little Quoggy

Did you notice that the Classic Word of the Day has been missing this week?

No?  Oh.  Well, that’s okay.  I hardly noticed either, but there’s an exciting part – it isn’t because I forgot.  Nope, I just ran out of words.

Do you find that hard to believe?  You probably should, there are a boatload of boating words that I didn’t bother to define.  In fact, I not sure I knew what a frigate or lee was until I read each of them 3562 times over the last month and a half.

In addition to the skipped jargon, there is an entirely unexplored class of word floating around in MD.  And I do mean entirely unexplored.  You see, one day as I was researching the meaning of the word quoggy I came across an interesting article on JSTOR.  In fact, it was so intriguing that I signed up for a free trial of JSTOR (an on-line academic journal database) so I could read full content.

Here’s a link if you want to take it all in for yourself (free trial and all), but if not, I’ll do my best to summarize.  In “Melville’s Contribution to English” published in Modern Language Association’s journal, PMLA, James Mark Purcell introduces his readers to a list of words and phrases from Melville’s works which were not found in the leading historical dictionaries of the day.

Brand, spanking new words.  Melvillisms.  And not just one or two.  In Moby-Dick, we’re talking 36 original uses of our language.  Or his language.  Or language.  It’s all a little quoggy.

Purcell gives an annotated list (I fall for annotated lists everytime, folks, everytime) of all the words from Melville’s works with definitions where necessary.  Many of them are definitely whaling words, but here are a few that we could probably reintroduce into conversational language today (oh, and these meanings below are pretty heavily my own, don’t blame Purcell, unless I do, too):

block – a haircut
crescentric – Do you think he meant concentric, or crescentic and just got confused?
curios – The New English Dictionary credits Melville with the earliest use of this word.
curvicues – involved figurations, sort of like curlicues, yes?
Earthsman – as opposed to a Moonsman
flukes –  an exclamatory word, “Flukes!”
footmanism – toadyism, which is the practice of flattering others to elevate yourself.  I had to look it up.
furious – well, he was the first to use it as an adverb.  He wrote furious furious.
gardenny – now really, I add “y” the to the ends of lost of words and no one ever writes journal articles saying that I’m geniusy.
quoggy –                       that’s right, Purcell didn’t give us a definition, maybe because he doesn’t know one
squilgee – a mop for cleaning the decks of whale ships
Tic-Dolly-row – that which disturbs the mind and feelings

Flukes! Let’s incorporate these words furious to all Earthsman, just make sure their use doesn’t turn into footsmanism or cause anyone Tic-Dolly-row.


Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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