Monday, 30 November 2020

this article contains weasel words

Having been informed that the proper collective noun for a pack of ferrets (Mustela putorius furo, whose common name is from the Latin for furuttus, “a little thief whose males are called hobs and jills—with neutered and spayed equivalents jib, or hoblet, and sprite) is a “busyness” (see also), we are more delighted with an bonus lesson on ghost words and transmission errors. From the very real and well-documented examples of Merriam-Webster’s dord—given the definition with the utmost earnestness of density whereas it was D or d, the typesetter’s note abbreviation for the measure of said term and the spurious testentry said to rhyme ironically with pedantry and the more speculative examples of o.k. or the etymology of pumpernickel with Napoleon proclaiming a loaf as fit only for his favourite horse “C’est pain pour Nicole,” the venery term for the name of a group of ferrets devolved from busyness to fesynes to feamyng. Presented first in a public form during a presentation to the Philological Society of London, Professor Watler William Skeat coined the phrase ghost word and elucidated the audience with an example line from Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Monastery: “…dost thou so soon morse thoughts of slaughter?” A typographical, transcription error made the question more poetic than the author intended and this happy misprint of the intended word nurse prompting quite a bit of scholarship, variously explaining the use as an occurrence of verbification, anthimeria or that it was a case of a New Latin false friend, namely—mordere to bite—that is to indulge and placate those thoughts by gnawing at what’s gnawing at the character.