Thanks, nodgecomb



That great Word Census, known as the OED, keeps records on the words populating the minds and mouths of English speakers. Some words, like “double,” have been around since 1290 doing twice the work of most verbs. Others die young.  For instance, “nodgecomb,” called both a simpleton and a fool, grew up in England in the 1500s and then suddenly died. We have no record of why he died, so there’s no way to dispute my claim that he was killed when he was caught poaching. At that time, most of the forests in England belonged to the royals, and under the sumptuary laws of Elizabethan England, unless you were granted a royal license, you could not hunt. Punishment for poaching included hanging, castration, and blinding. Few people know this (and I didn’t even know myself until I thought of it), but since the price for poached deer was so high, the English peasants began raising chickens and poaching their own eggs instead. If you had poached eggs this morning, you have nodgecomb to thank.


At this point, I probably should insert a line of little asterisks, but I’m not sure, so please just go the next paragraph. It also has something to do with the OED.

In the December census, the OED listed “posilutely” as a newcomer. Although it was born in 1988 in a dog’s mouth (Dodger in the movie “Oliver and Co.), it’s now safe to put in your mouth; it has the OED seal of approval, so you won’t get germs. I don’t know if its counterpart, “absotively,” is in the OED because I don’t have a bookshelf big enough to hold that many volumes or a bank account big enough to buy it.


They have an online subscription that I am considering. I hope by the time I sign up “nodgecomb” has been revived. We have a lot in common; not the poaching part, the simpleton part.




26 thoughts on “Thanks, nodgecomb

  1. Among the lost words I mourn is “denizel.” Look it up, and then think of Denzel Washington, and then speculate that his parents were OED browsers! (I’m sure their inspiration was more contemporary, but I like my theory just the same…)
    On a less romantic note, look up “merkin” and then think about Ole LBJ addressing the nation as “Mah fellow Merkins.” (This is not meant as mockery of Texas, just a comment on dialects and the lexicon.) This tickled the hell out of me and my fellow pinko students back in the day!

    • I have had no luck finding denizel, but I did find merkin. More than one Texan president has called us Merkins. Interestingly, the picture of the merkin on Wikipedia is pink. 🙂

      • I’m SURE I remember “denizel,” but I can’t find it either. Maybe I read it in some “dictionary of medieval terms” or something–my grad school experience involved a lot of looking in dictionaries! Interestingly, the word the OED does list, which means what I recall denizel as meaning, is even closer in spelling: DONZEL (also, donsel). A young gentleman not yet knighted; more or less the male equivalent of “damsel.” So my Denzel Washington fantasy can continue!

  2. Oh, just realized that I might be thought to be saying that MERKINS tickled the hell out of me….no, pretending LBJ MEANT “merkins” did. Sorry, as you know, we English majors are obscene….

  3. As you may, or may not, know I love words. I think, posilutely, I am not a nodgecomb for this. And I am looking forward to the day when these words do not have little red squiggly lines under them.

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