Emily Midorikawa is the co-author of A Secret Sisterhood, a book about the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontё, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, to be published in 2017 by Aurum Press (UK) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (USA). With her co-author, Emma Claire Sweeney, she runs the female literary friendship blog, Something Rhymed. Emily teaches writing at City University London and New York University: London. She was the winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize in 2015.
Clatter – I like the way this word sounds so exactly like its meaning, and the actual feeling of clattering that you experience in your mouth when you say it. Collateral, catastrophe and cataclysmic create a similar effect, but nearly always appear in the context of something terrible that has happened. Clatter is more ambiguous.
From Old English clatrung, ‘clattering, noise’, of imitative origin.
Crikey – My mother was Japanese. I have a feeling that when she was learning English, someone or something gave her the impression that crikey was a very commonly-used English word. In reality, my mother said crikey more than anyone else I’ve ever known. It was her default exclamation for annoyance, for surprise or to emphasise a point. At some stage in her life, it must surely have dawned on her that no one used this word as much as her. But did that stop her? No way. On the now much rarer occasions when I see or hear crikey, it always makes me smile.
Since 1838, propably a euphamism for Christ, from Greek khristos, ‘the anointed’. Pronunciation with the long ‘i’ is a result of Irish missionary work in England between the 7th and 8th centuries.
Portmanteau – In her 1959 memoir Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, the film star Mae West sings the praises of portmanteau with its many syllables and pleasing rhythm. I agree with her judgement here. It is a great word for a bag. There is also something satisfying about the style of bag it represents – a kind of travelling case with two equal parts – and the fact that portmanteau words take their name from this origin. While there might be some truly dreadful portmanteau words out there, others such as smog (smoke + fog) or Lewis Carroll’s slithy (lithe + slimy) perfectly sum up the concept.
Port, past participle stem of Latin portare ‘to carry’ + manteau, from Latin mantellum, ‘cloak’. Originally, a court official who carried a prince’s mantle (16th C). Portmanteau word coined by Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson, 1832-1898) for the words he invented for Jabberwocky.
Emily presents Literary Friendships with Something Rhymed at the Margate Bookie on August 20th, details here.