New word (for me): shill

Used recently in the Economist. According to Wikipedia, “shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization”. Also used for hustlers who attempt to entice people into going into a circus or other form of entertainment.

According to the Concise Oxford, the origin is uncertain but probably related to “shillaber”, a circus barker.

Jonathan Green (Crooked Talk: Five Hundred Years of the Language of Crime) considers “shill” as possibly an abbreviation of  the Irish “shillelagh”, a cudgel (cudgelling the victim into participation) or earlier oak wood to make cudgels from  (, 1670) originally related to the town of Shillelagh in County Wicklow. A person behind the bar with a cudgel to prevent disturbances may also have been known as a shillelagh, which provides some support for the term gliding to become the “shill” for a person at the door.


Word craft

“archipelago” is derived from the Italian “arcipelago” originally meaning “the Aegean sea” deriving in turn from the Greek “arkhi” (chief, as in “archbishop”) and “pelagos” (sea). (Concise Oxford Dictionary). For the Greeks then just the major bit of water around them but the meaning wandered to mean any sea with many islands.
We have “skerry” in English too, a small rocky island (from Old Norse via the Orkney dialect) but it’s perhaps now too narrow to be used as a synonym for “archipelago” which includes more substantial islands (otherwise it would be rather satisfying to refer to the skärgård as the Skerries).
“gård” has also made its way into English as “garth” – COD gives the meaning of “close” or “yard” as archaic but “cloister garth” is used (an open space within cloisters and perhaps a neat translation for “klostergård” without having to go burbling on about small courtyards, though yard too is related to “gård” through Old English “gearth” enclosure).
“Skerry garth” is tempting and there is in fact the odd usage of “skerry garth” in the Shetlands but we’d probably better stick to the Stockholm Archipelago for the time being.

It’s a very small place (Saratoga)

Irritating that my history education was so thin about the doings of the 318 million the other side of the Atlantic although I have made efforts to remedy this since visiting the States for the first time in my fifties. I console myself with a conversation with an American lady near the lighthouse at Edgarstown (Marthas Vineyard). We talked about our respective nation’s knowledge of the other country’s history and I mentioned that you could probably talk to a hundred Brits before finding one who knew the significance of Saratoga (one of the key battles/turning points in the War of Independence). She looked a bit concerned and then said “Well that’s not surprising. It’s a very small place”…..Still I shouldn’t get too cocky…I am a bit shakey on key battles of the Wars of the Roses too…

My history teacher ran out of time so Wolfe won the battle of Quebec in 1759 at the end of term and the next term opened bright and beautiful with a discussion of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, thus missing a couple of minor fracas like the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. Even gauche, half educated DK at the age of 17 realised that something had gone badly wrong…

Ansier and astylar etc.

The week’s new words for me

antsy (antsier)
restless, impatient, nervous. Origins stated as 1838 US English (rural southern), perhaps from the expression ”having ants in one’s pants”. Probably an urban buzzword but it didn’t get over
DK’s attention threshold until the Economist started using it.

a confused mixture, a muddle, hodgepodge. I’ve seen this word a few times before but have been too lazy to check it. I suspect I saw it used in the context of Brexit…..

(in the context of masonry) when neither columns or pilasters are used for decoration

(structure) “of or involving right angles” (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Whatever next

After an unsuccessful attempt to ignore the presence of a step during a nocturnal ramble, I have flown in a helicopter for the first time (not so exciting if you’re lying on a stretcher but it had its moments), talked to an English doctor for ten minutes about Brexit (perhaps to establish whether I was confused or not, not sure what conclusions she drew…), and explored the delights of computer tomography, to eventually be given a clean bill of health and equipped with a pair of crutches for further exploration of the world (I am surprised by my technical finesse at handling crutches and suspect I may have (well) hidden talents). No long-term harm done then, apart from messing up our planned quality week with the grandchildren. I probably have to sit down quite a bit and read…lucky my character is sufficiently strong to deal with this