Wordjoy: new in the notebook, January

Hello, all. My notebook has some new gems that make me weak in the knees every time I read over them, so I think it’s time for a Wordjoy. Here we go.

Bucking is a method of laundering clothes by layering them, covering them with a bucking-cloth to protect them from the layer of ashes you then shovel atop, and slowly pouring hot water over it all over a long period of time. The ashes turn the water into lye-water, which then bleaches and goes some way toward disinfecting the dirty laundry.

I had a lot of Thoughts about this because my first Thought was that that’s why linens were always undyed, before soap powder became easily available. Bucked linens were also washed with soap, or not, depending on what was available–but if only ashes were available, you can kiss your dye job goodbye.

My second thought was about a throwaway line I glanced at somewhere once. It said something about linen not taking natural dyes well. I don’t know if that’s true or not. It seems doubtful, but it would be an alternate explanation for why linens weren’t dyed.

I suspect people mostly didn’t want to go to the trouble. And I know linen will take oak-gall, because I’ve seen antique linens with the owner’s name signed in oak-gall ink.


A turve is a block of peat cut out of a peat-bog and burned for heat. I’ve been reading P.V. Glob’s book The Bog People, published in the 1960s, about bog bodies discovered in northern Europe. It inspired Seamus Heaney to write his bog poems, which are my absolute favorites.

When peat burns, it makes a strong smell called peat-reek, which permeates the homes, clothing, and food of people who burn it. Glob specifically says that the peaty flavor of Islay whiskey is peat-reek, so if you want to know what it’s like, grab a bottle of that.

(There are so many wonderful words associated with bogs and bog bodies and iron age peoples…torc, fen, cairn…)

A stickybeak is a busybody, always putting his or her nose in other people’s business.

To bruit is to spread rumors.

Mansuetude is gentleness of manner

Frondescence is a lovely word for leaves and foliage

To crepitate is to make crackling noises

A seiche is a phenomenon in which the level of a body of water fluctuates due to changing atmospheric pressure. This is not the same as a tide, which is caused by the position of the moon. Seiches can happen in lakes, bays, reservoirs, even swimming pools.

A tumpline is a padded band that is strapped to a heavy load and put over your forehead, so you can carry the load on your back and keep your hands free.

Lastly, kerf is the width of material a saw removes.


3 thoughts on “Wordjoy: new in the notebook, January

  1. My favorite in that list is bucking. I did not know that. I also like frondescence for the sound and meaning.
    My new personal favorite is “insalubrious morass” I love the texture on my tongue.
    Thanks for a lively post Katherine.

  2. There is also a phrase “buck up” which means get on with it, get your spirits up. Peter knew the phrase too, so it’s not just a Yorkshire phrase. A great list of words, as always.

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