Myth Trivia: One lump or two? New and archaic words, meanings

Do you know our sh*t from your Shinola? And just what does that mean. Take your lump, or two, from this Spermologer.

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CHARLOTTE, NC, September 6, 2017 – William Shakespeare is arguably regarded as the greatest wordsmith in history and he was, without doubt, one of the best.

Each decade brings new words to our vocabulary that become so commonplace they seem as if they have been always part of our culture. Since 2000 alone we have added blog, unfriend, hoody, meme, phishing, trekkie and wi-fi to mention a few.

But what about words and phrases that have disappeared from use in such a way that they almost become a foreign language for people born after the turn of the century.

Here’s an example of how language changes. Were you aware that before the year 1000, the word “she” did not exist in the English language? The singular word to reference a woman was “heo.”

That was also the word used for the plural referring to all genders.

It wasn’t until the 12th century that the word “she” came into common use. It was probably derived from the feminine word “seo” in Olde English, which was a Viking term for women.

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With those thoughts in mind, today we look at the English language with words that have seeming disappeared from our lives. Here are a few that have vanished which were never heard or uttered by most of us:

Snoutfair: A person with a handsome countenance

Wonder-wench: A sweetheart

Lunting: Walking while smoking a pipe

Groak: To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them

Curglaff: The shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into the cold water

Spermologer: A picker-up of trivia, of current news, a gossip monger, what we would today call a columnist

Beef-witted: Having an inactive brain, thought to be from eating too much beef

With squirrel: Pregnant

And here are some familiar phrases for most of us over 30, but they are likely uncommon for Millennials.

The rabbit died:

In the 1920s, long before home pregnancy tests were the norm, a woman who suddenly started throwing up each morning would visit her doctor rather than the drugstore to learn if she was pregnant.

The doctor would inject her urine into the ovaries of a female rabbit and wait 48 hours or more for telltale changes signaling the presence of the hCG hormone.

The phrase “the rabbit died” was actually a misnomer because, as a rule, the bunny was already deceased prior to its ovaries being removed for testing purposes. Later versions of the test allowed doctors to examine a rabbit’s ovaries without killing it first.

Don’t know [excrement] from Shinola:

Shinola (pronounced shy-no-la) was a brand of wax-based shoe polish that was on the market from 1907 until 1960. The classic phrase that used the product to describe a person’s intelligence became popular during World War II.

You sound like a broken record:

Actually, this phrase has the potential for revival because wax records are regaining popularity. Audiophiles say the range of fidelity is greater with old records than with modern CDs so many collectors are returning to the long-playing 33 1/3 records of yesteryear.

In those days, a broken record would be cracked or have a scratch potentially making it unplayable. What an exasperated speaker meant when he called you a “broken record” was that you were repeating yourself, which is what a record will do when damaged.

Don’t touch that dial:

This expression has actually morphed into “stay with us” or “we’ll be right back.”

It began during the golden age of radio when listeners actually had to physically get up and turn a dial to change a station. It was common for stations to promote upcoming shows or news broadcasts by saying, “Don’t touch that dial,” indicating that if you changed the channel you would miss some life-altering importance.

The idea is still prominent today, but used with some adaptations due to the advent of remote control which, of course, is commonly known as “the clicker.”

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Film at eleven:

Back in the day, when television stations used film rather than tape or digital technology, it was popular to run “teasers” between commercials and regular programming to alert viewers to “breaking new” that was happening between the 6 and 11 o’clock broadcasts.

“Teasers” are still popular, however with modern technology and satellites, there is much more “real-time” coverage that gets images on the air almost as they happen.

Thus there is really no need to promote “film at eleven” because it is assumed by viewers that an important story will automatically be covered.

One lump or two:

In the United States, sugar is no longer served in compressed “teaspoons” or lumps as was once popular. It is more likely to find lump sugar in Europe and other destinations around the globe, so asking the question “one lump or two” is not as prevalent in our country as it once was.

Lump sugar was invented in 1949 by Jean Louis Chambon in an effort to make the dishing of sugar out of a communal bowl more sanitary.

Today sugar packets are more likely to be used although a sugar bowl may be requested for things such as cereal or fruit where lump sugar is not practical.

And there you have our trivia for today to which we say you can “like it or lump it.”

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

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