Tuesday, 20 September 2011


I have received many requests to provide definitions for Blogger’s word verification, um, words, of which this is the latest.  Exhaustive analysis allows me to reveal that they fall into three categories: words that look as if they might mean something, but don’t; words that could never by any stretch mean anything; and garbled obscenities.  This leads me to believe that there are not two (as I previously thought) but three teams of verbaliverificationalists at work there: 1) the munchkins, who tease you with blunt-edged neologisms that send you scurrying to the dictionary, then giggle; 2) the oompa loompas, who throw the alphabet up in the air then run across the field kicking letters at each other until they form a pattern which makes them all giggle; and 3) underdeveloped schoolboys, who just giggle then snigger.

For the record, ‘datirism’ (n) means ‘a compulsive impulse to fail to make any sense (or anagram) of a given item of input.’  But that’s not important now.

More to the point, I was led to remember a recent complaint that there were far too many words which all mean the same thing.  I disagreed, but now I’m thinking about the converse: one word which, though spelt and pronounced the same, means two or more quite different things.  Diverted by this idea, and exploring ‘pan’, ‘lie’ and ‘waffle’, I was diverted by Chambers’ totally irrelevant definition of ‘page three’, which I can’t resist quoting in full, because it’s classic Chambers: ‘the page on which, traditionally, certain popular newspapers print nude or semi-nude photographs of female models with well-developed figures.’

Don’t you just love that ‘traditionally’?  I could quibble with the syntax – a photograph cannot be nude or semi-nude – but that’s not important either.

So, to come to the important point, consider the word ‘bid’.  This has two distinct meanings, from two quite different roots, which can be summarised as 1) to offer, and 2) to command.  Here is a snatch of dialogue, possibly from Jane Austen or P G Wodehouse:

ARCHIE: I bid you, Clarinda –

CLARINDA: In what sense, Archie, do you say ‘bid’?

ARCHIE: Forgive me, my darling.  I said ‘bid’. I meant to say ‘bid’.


  1. I think the last is Wodehouse, tongue-in-cheek.

    the word verif. is "mento"

  2. Yes.
    Like last Sunday's America's Cup "sailing" on Plymouth Sound:
    "Wind me up".
    30 knots & counting.