The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell


I am the WEBMASTER, and it is I who will be presenting to you, READER, the private journal of Donald Pincher, aspiring author. How I came to be possessed of it is no concern of yours. And in any case, if I did go about to tell you by what accident I obtained covert access to the file, it would in this unbelieving age pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the blogosphere. Suffice it to say that he types Journal.doc on his computer (Windows ME) and, in his careless cyber-luddism, has left open a pathway vulnerable to exploitation by those of us who know the ways of data capture. Pincher is a pious, small-c-conservative young fogey of the leftmost wing. He lives unfashionably in the London district of Forest Hill SE23, and devotes his life to writing entries in his Oxford Urban Dictionary, trying to find someone willing to publish his novel – five-hundred pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature – and to being fruitlessly apoplectic about the price of things in the capital. A privacy obsessive, much of his novel consists of (in equal measure) decrying the dangers of the Internet age, and mocking its pretentions. Which is why I thought it would be funny for him to write his own blog, even if it is one that he doesn’t know he’s writing. Though the automatic-upload macro I’ve attached to Pincher’s journal makes me something of a deistical Prime Mover, I will occasionally deign to intervene in ‘the cool of the day’ (to footnote, to hyperlink, to tag, or otherwise curate). To this end you will know me by my dark-blue font. Without further ado, I present to you what I’ve chosen to dub, in the idiom of its unwitting BLOGGER, The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Monday, 5th October 2015

Fivepenny tax, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈfʌɪvpəni
Etymology: < five adj. + penny n.

1. One at fivepence in the pound.
2. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015. ‘A seller must charge a minimum of 5 pence (including any VAT) for each SUCB supplied’.

Saturday, 26th September 2015

The OED’s earliest attestation of the word unelectable is a 1932 biography of the socialist George Bernard Shaw. The passage in question is about left-wing Shaw’s election as Vestryman and Borough Councillor of St Pancras:

In 1897, his friends Robert and “Lion” (Mrs.) Phillimore, then members of the St. Pancras Vestry administering the local government of quarter of a million Londoners, made a deal with their anti-Progressive opponents whereby certain nominees of theirs were elected without protest, the number of candidates being by agreement no greater than the number of vacant seats. In no other way could Shaw have secured election; for he boasts with truth that he is a hopelessly unelectable person under any existing democratic franchise.

This is succour for all of us who voted for the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Vest(ry)man and MP for neighbouring Islington North. All that needs to happen for him to become prime minister in 2020 is for there to be no other candidates.

Monday, 21st September 2015

It has been claimed by a member of the House of Lords that the blue-blooded head of the Westminster government ‘put a private part of his anatomy’ into a ‘swine’ at a meeting of an exclusive dining club named in honour of royal favourite Piers Gaveston.

The swine in question has now been identified as Gaveston himself. King Edward’s spokeswoman has said, ‘I’m not intending to dignify this by offering any comment or any HRH reaction to it.’ The peer who made the allegation was once the red-hot favourite for the earldom of Cornwall, which he felt he had bought (surely ‘earned’? Ed.), and is said to have been infuriated when the king passed him over in favour of the waspish Gaveston.

Saturday, 19th September 2015

Collective nouns (or ‘proper terms’) denoting groups of animals and people – ‘a shrewdness of apes’, ‘a hastiness of cooks’, etc. – have long been a source of linguistic fun. However, ‘Many of these are fanciful or humorous terms which probably never had any real currency’ (Fowler’s). I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of those that have entered the OED, along with the dictionary’s judgement as to their genuineness.

The Second Edition of the dictionary often defines the words in the form, The/a —— term/name for a company of ——s.

  • barren: ‘Specific term for a drove of mules.’
  • berry: ‘the spec. name for a company of rabbits.’
  • bevy: ‘The proper term for a company of maidens or ladies, of roes, of quails, or of larks.’
  • bike: ‘A nest of wasps, hornets, or wild bees, as distinct from the hive or skep of domestic bees. Also, the whole nestful of bees; a swarm.’
  • bleach: ‘the term for, A company of [souters].’
  • blush: ‘a ‘company’ of boys.’
  • building: ‘A company (of rooks), a rookery.’
  • bunch: ‘A flock of waterfowl.’
  • cast: ‘The number of hawks cast off at a time; a couple; also of other birds.’
  • cete: ‘A ‘company’ of badgers.’
  • charge: ‘Term for a ‘company’ of clergy having the cure of souls.’
  • chirm: ‘A company or flock (of finches).’
  • congregation: ‘a gathering, assemblage, or company […] of plovers.’
  • covert: ‘The technical term for a flock or ‘company’ of coots.’
  • covey: ‘A brood or hatch of partridges; a family of partridges keeping together during the first season. (Sometimes also of grouse, ptarmigan, etc.)’
  • cry: ‘A pack of hounds’ or ‘contemptuously. A ‘pack’ (of people).’
  • desert: ‘An alleged name for a covey of lapwings.’
  • dignity: ‘The term for a ‘company’ of canons.’
  • disguising: ‘An alleged appellation for a ‘company’ of tailors.’
  • disworship: ‘Alleged term for a ‘company’ of Scots.’
  • dole: ‘A fanciful term for a company of doves.’
  • draught: ‘A fanciful name for a ‘company’ of butlers.’
  • drift (in the sense ‘That which is driven’): ‘A number of animals driven or moving along in a body; a drove, herd, flock, flight (of birds), swarm (of bees). Rarely of persons’ or ‘A fanciful name for a company of fishers.’
  • exaltation: ‘A fanciful name for: A flight (of larks).’
  • example: ‘An alleged designation for a company (of ‘masters’).’
  • execution: ‘An alleged designation for a company of officers.’
  • fall: ‘An alleged name for a covey or flight (of woodcocks).’
  • fellowshipping: ‘the alleged proper term for a company of yeomen.’
  • fighting: ‘An alleged designation for a company of beggars.’
  • flight: ‘the special term for a company of doves, swallows, and various other birds.’
  • gaggle: ‘a company (of women). […] One of the many artificial terms invented in the 15th c. as distinctive collectives referring to particular animals or classes of persons; but unlike most of the others, it seems to have been actually adopted in use.’
  • glorifying: ‘As an alleged term for a company (of liars).’
  • glozing: ‘An alleged name for a ‘company’ (of taverners).’
  • goring: ‘An alleged name for a company of butchers.’
  • haras: ‘a stud, breed, or race of horses’.
  • hastiness: ‘A fanciful name for a ‘company’ of cooks.’
  • host: ‘A name for a ‘company’ of sparrows.’
  • huske: ‘An old name for a ‘company’ of hares.’
  • kerf: ‘Humorous term for a company of pantry-men.’
  • kindle: ‘A brood or litter (of kittens).’
  • kit: ‘A school of pigeons.’
  • lash: ‘An alleged name for a ‘company’ of carters.’
  • leap: ‘An alleged name for a ‘company’ of leopards.’
  • lying: ‘Alleged name for a ‘company’ of pardoners.’
  • shrewdness: ‘A pretended term for a ‘company’ of apes.’
  • siege: ‘a group or flock of herons.’
  • skein: ‘A flight of wild fowl.’
  • skulk: ‘A number, company, or gathering (of persons or animals given to skulking).’
  • sloth: ‘A company of bears (or erroneously, boars).’
  • smear: ‘A ‘company’ of curriers.’
  • sord: ‘A flight or flock of mallards.’
  • sounder: ‘A herd of wild swine.’
  • tabernacle: ‘An alleged term for a company of bakers.’
  • trip: ‘A troop or company of men’, ‘A small flock (of goats, sheep, hares, etc.)’, or ‘A small flock of wild-fowl.’
  • troop: ‘A herd, flock, swarm; esp. a group of apes or monkeys.’
  • unbrewing: ‘A fanciful name for a ‘company’ (of carvers).’
  • unkindness: ‘A flock (of ravens).’
  • watch: ‘in the early lists of ‘proper terms’, app. intended to designate wakefulness as the distinctive quality of the [nightingale]; by late writers misapprehended as the proper term for a flock or company of nightingales.’
  • wedge: ‘The V-shaped formation adopted by a number of geese or other wildfowl when flying.’
  • wisp: ‘A flock (of birds, esp. snipe).’
  • worship: ‘An alleged name for a company of writers.’

Many of the Third Edition’s entries carry the explanatory note, ‘One of many alleged group names found in late Middle English glossarial sources.’

  • badling: ‘A collective term for: a group of ducks (formerly also hens).’
  • business: ‘a swarm of flies, a group of ferrets.’
  • discreetness and discretion: ‘A company of priests.’
  • faith: ‘A company of merchants.’
  • gam: ‘A herd or school of whales (later also of porpoises).’
  • head: ‘A group or indefinite number of animals; esp. a stock or managed population of game or (now usually) fish.’
  • labour: ‘A collective term for: a group of moles.’
  • laughter: ‘A gathering or group of ostlers.’
  • melody: ‘A group (of harpists).’
  • misbelief: ‘A term for: a company (of painters).’
  • multiplying: ‘A group (of husbandmen).’
  • murder: ‘A flock (of crows).’
  • murmuration: ‘A flock (of starlings); spec. (in later use) a large gathering of starlings creating intricate patterns in flight.’
  • muster: ‘A collection or group (of peacocks).’
  • mute: ‘A pack (of hounds).’
  • never-thriving: ‘a group (of jugglers)’.
  • non-patience: ‘A group of wives.’
  • nye: ‘A brood of pheasants.’
  • obeisance: ‘A company of servants.’
  • observance: ‘a religious group observing a common rule. Also: spec. the Franciscan Observants; (rarely) an Observant friary.’
  • pace: ‘A pack or team of asses.’
  • parliament: ‘a noisy gathering of birds, esp. rooks’.
  • peep: ‘A flock of chickens.’
  • pod: ‘A herd or school of marine mammals, esp. a small herd or family group of whales or dolphins.’
  • pontifical: ‘A company or group of (esp. ecclesiastical) dignitaries.’
  • pontificality: ‘A company of prelates’.
  • poverty: ‘A company (of pipers).’
  • prudence: ‘A gathering or group of vicars.’
  • rag: ‘A group (of colts).’
  • rage: ‘A group (of maidens or colts).’
  • rake: ‘A herd (of colts).’
  • richesse: ‘A group (of pine martens).’
  • rookery: ‘A breeding colony of sea birds, esp. penguins, on or close to the coast. Later also: a breeding colony of wading birds.’
  • rout: ‘A number of animals grouped together; a pack, flock, herd, etc.; spec. a pack of wild animals, esp. wolves.’
  • safeguard: ‘A group or ‘company’ of porters.’
  • superfluity: ‘A collective term for: a group of nuns.’
  • walk: ‘A flock (of snipes).’

Sunday, 13th September 2015

Clenched-fist salute, n.

Pronunciation: /klɛnʃt fɪst səˈluːt/
Etymology: clenched adj. + fist n. + salute n.

A raised-arm salute with fist clenched, denoting socialist solidarity, black power, or (Telecomm. advts., offensive) ‘4G at no extra cost’.


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