Issue 138, page 1

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We note with dismay that, despite our solemn assurances [Issue 137, letters], some readers are still skeptical that any English words begin with wl-.  Let us assure you that, tucked away in a back corner of its attic, the English language has more than a few words which begin with this ungainly mouthful.  They may be a little unfashionable but they can still be found in the better dictionaries.  Yes, we know that most are labeled "obsolete" (lexicographers can be so cruel) but chip off the rust, give 'em a lick of paint and they'd be as good as new.

So, just for the record, here they are: every wl- word we know, dusted off and wheeled out into the sunlight...


"To waffle", "to blather".  From Old English wlaffian, "to stammer; to speak indistinctly" 

By comyxtioun with Danes and Normans, in meny the contray longage is apayred [impaired], and som vseth straunge wlaffyng.

- Polychronicon, Ranulph Higden,
translated by John of Trevisa,1387

wlak, wlach, wleach, wlech or wlecch

"Lukewarm ".  Related to Middle Low German wlak "lukewarm".

In comparisoun to that hote brennyng lyghe, oure fier is but as it were wlache hoot.  
[In comparison to that hot, burning lye, our fire is but, as it were, lukewarm.]

- Polychronicon, Ranulph Higden,
translated by John of Trevisa,1387


This obsolete verb appears to be a hybrid of to lap (i.e. "to fold [cloth]") with to wrap .  It seems to have survived until quite late as it found a 19th century champion...

In wlapping there is more of folding over, placing one layer over another, than in wrapping. We wrap up any thing in a silk handkerchief: the laundress wlaps up the shirt which she has ironed.

- Hallamshire Glossary, J. Hunter, 1829


"Nauseous, loathsome". Hence...


"Nausea, loathing, disgust".

I use therof comforteth the stomak, and abateth wlatnesse.

- De Proprietatibus Rerum Bartholomeus Anglicus,
translated by John of Trevisa, 1398


"Nauseous, loathsome".  Or, more rarely, [stop laughing you lot] it sometimes meant "having a loathing of", as in:

Ful unpacient of pees and wlatful of sleuthe.
[Completely impatient with peace and loathing sloth]

- Polychronicon, Ranulph Higden,
translated by John of Trevisa,1387

wlating, wlatingness


Cursse droppide on vs, and wlatyngnesse. 
[Curses, and detestable things, dropped on us.] 

Wyclif, 1382 


Loathsome, detestable. 

Mordre is so wlatsom and abhomynable To god.
[Murder is so loathsome and abominable to God]

- Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer, 1386 


To make proud.


An old form of flesh

Ine wlessche ioyneth man and wyf, Children to multeplye.

- Shoreham, about 1315 


Like ulf, this is an obsolete form of "wolf".


Don't bother trying to guess how one pronounces wlgar (or wlgair) as they are both obsolete forms of vulgar.


"A lisp" or "lisping", from Old English wlispian "to lisp".  (Well, you try saying it!)


As a noun - "beauty, splendour, appearance, form".


As a verb - "to pipe, chirp or warble".


A hem, a fringe or the nap on cloth.

wlonk, wlaunke

A word for all seasons, it meant "proud and haughty" in Beowulf but could also mean "rich, splendid, fine or magnificent".  Occasionally, it could even mean "lush" and "rich in moisture":

Snow... norischeth and fedeth good herbes and maketh hem wlonke.
[Snow nourishes and feeds vegetables, making them lush.]

- Polychronicon, Ranulph Higden,
translated by John of Trevisa,1387


 Wlonc (pride) + -ful.

wlough, wlouh,

Adorned, opulent. 

Thou art riche mon and wlough And of richesse hast inouh.
[You are a rich and opulent man and of richness have enough.]

Vernon Manuscript, 14th century


Obscure spelling of vult, an equally obscure word meaning "face" or "expression".


Another way of spelling wolfen.  Just as a a female fox is a vixen, a wolfen is "a she-wolf".

While we are airing the relics of English, how about wman?  It is found in some dictionaries as an obscure, dialect form of woman.  We think anyone who pronounces woman as "wman" can be justly accused of wlaffing.

How do we know all this stuff?  Why not visit our bookstore and find out?


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