It's that time of the year again when I take a delve into the words of Christmas. It might be nerdy but it is Christmas and I like it … I thought I might take a look at some of the more obscure and perhaps forgotten words that might find their way into your Christmas teaching repertoire for good or bad or one of those games that some of you might play at school or at home.
We’ve got the propine and like the other yuleshards possibly bought the toe-covers. No matter the weather, you still need to meggle your way home. When Christmas Day comes we'll be looking forward to the belly-cheer before or after the oblations (depending on your traditions) and hope we don’t pang or get panged with one of those toe-covers. The Krismas-glas is finished and that completes the overquat. Let’s hope we don’t suffer crapulence and we can find time to go outside and help the kids with the hogamadog …
Gobbledygook you might think, but only because we don’t recognise some of the words; they’re all genuine and have perhaps a limited usage or have been lost in the mists of time in the development of English. Rather than simply provide the background, meaning and usage of these words, having floated the idea of a quiz with one of my colleagues, this is the way we’ll go; a little entertainment (hopefully), a little thinking and some reminders of purposeful tasks we can include in our reading lessons.
Don’t look up the words, try to work out the meanings:
1. A verb; to trudge through snow or mud
2. ‘crapulence’ in line 5 of the passage means
(a) To overspend
(b) A feeling of sickness through overindulgence of food or drink
(c) A reluctance to do things during the Winter
3. A 16th century word meaning ‘fantastic food’ or ‘great feast’ is
4. There was enough snow for the kids to roll a small snowball around the garden and make a …
5. I got panged with a toe warmer I’d given to someone else last year.
This sentence can be interpreted as:
(a) I had a great time sharing the drink I gave to someone last year
(b) I was given a useless present that I gave to someone last year
(c) I got drunk with a warm drink that I’d found last year and given someone as a present
6. If you ‘overquat’ you have
(a) Over eaten
(b) Spent too much
(c) An abbreviation for ‘quaterniary’ in chemistry
7. An ‘oblation’ is an act of:
(a) Washing for hygiene or ritual
(b) Giving or receiving a gift
(c) A sacrifice
8. If I have the propine, I have the
(a) Money to spend on drink
(b) The gas for the barbecue
(c) Refused payment
9. There are too many 'Yuleshards' in this house
(a) Too many people who wait until Christmas Eve to prepare things
(b) Too many broken decorations
(c) Too many cheap decorations
(a) A special drink to toast the house at Christmas
(b) A piece of Glassware used only at Christmas
(c) A glass ornament hung on a Christmas tree
11. I've got some 'toe-covers' to give away
(a) Cheap & useless presents
(c) Shoe polish
What we’ve done here is enhanced our reading skills as well as developing vocabulary; something that we can easily do in class. Use something like these questions, a crossword, match the meaning to the form … I hope you enjoy trying these words out with your students as well as family and friends over Christmas.
Check your answers to the quiz below.
A cheap and totally useless present: Toe-covers
A special drink to toast the house at Christmas: Krismas-glas
People who wait until Christmas Eve to prepare things: Yuleshards
Have the money for drink: Propine
Giving/receiving a gift: Oblation
Overindulge in food/drink: Overquat
Give/receive an inexpensive/useless gift: Pang
A large snow-ball made by rolloing a smaller one around on the snow: Hogamadog
A 16th century word meaning ‘fantastic food’ or ‘great feast’: Belly-cheer
A feeling of sickness through overindulgence of food or drink: Crapulance
To trudge through snow/mud: Meggle
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out last year's Christmas blog: A linguistic History of Christmas in 5 words to discover the meaning of 5 'more common' Christmas words.
Sean Martin over the last 10 years in Hong Kong has worked in a variety of TESOL settings, including teaching academic English to secondary and tertiary learners. He has also taught professional adults of various nationalities to develop their English skills across a range of commercial sectors, including law, aviation, hospitality and leisure. In addition to his work at EfA as a Trinity Colege London cert.TESOL tutor and delivering CPD workshops, Sean works with the University of Sunderland on their English for Academic Purposes programme. He has academic interests in sociolinguistics and its application in the classroom.