One of my favourite books is ‘A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words – Obsolete phrases, proverbs and ancient customs from the Fourteenth Century’ by James Orchard Halliwell, 1852. Using old manuscripts and searching local dialect, Halliwell put together his two volume dictionary with a wealth of wonderful words.
Any dip into Halliwell produces delights, such as Tossicated - to feel restless and perplexed; Owlguller - to prowl about; Ninny-nonny -to feel uncertain; Meacock - a silly, effeminate fellow; Three thrum - the song of a female cat as she purrs; Giglet - a giddy, romping girl, with implications of wantonness; Bittiwelp- headlong. Today I opened it at random to learn that Wudder means ‘a sullen roar’ and that a Salmon-Gundy is a nickname for a cook. Oh, and then there was Snuzzl, ‘to cuddle’ and a Snuffkin for a small lady’s muff. So there’s no need to be Tetricall (sour, gloomy) if you have Halliwell’s at your side for entertainment!
It also makes a great word game – I set up a game at our Exeter Writers Christmas party, guessing the true meaning from three definitions, two of them fake. Along the lines of Call My Bluff, for those who know or remember the TV panel game. For instance, is Clapperclaw
a) To beat, abuse and fight seriously
b) Part of a church bell
c) A hiding place in a clapper bridge to leave messages, goods etc. (Devon)
For years, I only had vol 1, J-Z of Halliwell, a gift from an old friend long ago, but eventually I bought Vol 2, and now it’s all easy to get hold of, digitised online or as a reprint from Amazon. There are also a few online portraits of Halliwell - he looks like a chap with a keen enquiring mind, doesn't he? But oh, dear, he wasn't the most scrupulous of antiquarians - in his zest to acquire snippets, he cut up priceless books and manuscripts and stuck the bits into his own notebooks! He was eventually banned from the British Museum. Let's hope his legacy of collections in part made up for his piracy.