Monthly Archives: August 2013



I went to a training class this week during which a guest speaker used the word taradiddle. No one in the crowd of thirty or so had heard this word before, including me, and I thought perhaps the speaker had made it up. Turns out it is a legitimate word. It’s been around since the late 18th century, in fact. Taradiddle is a fancy word for a lie or fabrication. In more modern times, it has also taken on the meaning of nonsense, not unlike poppycock and balderdash, two equally unusual words that mean the same thing. Poppycock has a Dutch origin and literally means “doll excrement” (not unlike our colorful American word for nonsense derived from bull excrement, which has only been around since 1915). No one seems to know for certain where balderdash originates from. Though it sounds British like most of these terms, it also may have a Dutch origin (balderen = to roar). One has to wonder why the Dutch have so many words for nonsense. I’d like to make up a new one, a portmanteau, because it has a nice ring to it: poppybalderdiddle. Lets see how many years it takes that to get in the dictionary.

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About forty

At work, we put products in quarantine when they are removed from sale for safety reasons. The word “quarantine” means “about forty,” quarante being the French word for forty. Forty days was the amount of time Christ removed himself from society to fast in the desert. It was also the legal period of time a widow had in which to receive her dower and remain in her husband’s house, and the amount of time a ship that carried diseased passengers had to wait before it would be allowed to disembark. So now any period of isolation or forced removal is called a quarantine, whether close to forty days or not.

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