An Interesting Word – Gyascutus

Imagine this: you’re taking a hike on a mountain trail. The trail wraps around the mountain, and as you walk, you admire the beautiful striations in the rock beside you.  The sky is blue, and there’s not a cloud in sight. Everything is perfect, and you can’t imagine the day being any better. Then, you hear a noise behind you. You turn around, but there’s nothing there. You relax, thinking it was just your imagination. Still, you can’t shake the feeling of dread that’s come over you. You continue on your hike, but glance back every few minutes, though you keep telling yourself you’re being silly. This time you turn around, knowing that you weren’t imagining the scratching sound behind you. It almost sounds like claws scrambling across the stones. That’s silly. There are no monsters on the mountain, you tell yourself. Forcing yourself to turn around and keep walking, you take shaky step after shaky step. Suddenly, a roar sounds behind you, and you spin around to find yourself face to face with a hideous monster hanging from the mountainside. Foam drips from the tips of its sharp teeth, and its long claws grip the side of the mountain. Its green eyes are wild and filled with rage. You take off running, your heart pounding as the four-legged creature follows you, somehow running around the side of the mountain like a spider. Oh, no! What do you do?

Well, if you know that this is a gyascutus, you won’t be terribly worried. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a gyascutus is the name of “an imaginary, large, four-legged beast with legs on one side longer than those on the other, for walking on hillsides.” This crazy creature is also called a sidehill gouger. They are depicted as living in burrows in the hillside and are herbivores, although that doesn’t mean they won’t attack. Wikipedia says, “When a clockwise gouger meets a counter-clockwise gouger, they have to fight to the death since they can only go in one direction.” The origin of the word gyascutus is unknown. It first appeared in an 1840s American newspaper article by Frank C. Whitmore and Nicholas Hotton though legends of a creature similar to a gyascutus are also found in Europe. There is a real life gyascutus, but it isn’t quite so big. It’s the genus name of a family of beetles.

Knowing what a gyascutus is, you quickly form a plan. You run as fast as you can along the mountain path, knowing there is a clearing up ahead. The gyascutus is right behind you, gnashing its teeth. You arrive in the clearing, and take a deep breath. Because the gyascutus’s legs are longer on one side than the other, if they come off the mountainside, they can’t walk. The gyascutus knows this and growls at you from the mountain, and finally moves on. You’re safe! You continue on your hike, thankful your vocabulary has saved the day.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla


An Interesting Word – Tintinnabulation

I’m currently listening to The Taggerung by Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series. The novel is read by the author himself, and Jacques has an amazing accent. One of my favorite things is when the story calls for the abbey bells to ring. Jacques always makes his voice sound like a ringing bell. In fact, it’s so good you probably couldn’t tell it from the real tintinnabulation of Matthias and Methuselah, Redwall Abbey’s twin bells. Hold it. Back up there. That’s a big word! What in the world is tintinnabulation? Read on to find out!

Tintinnabulation is “the ringing and sounding of bells.” It comes from the Latin word tintinnabulum meaning bell. The word was supposed to sound like the ringing of bells. Edgar Allan Poe is sometimes cited as the creator of this word in his 1849 poem, The Bells. He seems to have combined several different words, such as tintinnabulary, that were similar to the Latin term. However, the word is also found in Charles Dickens’s serial novel Dombey and Son published from 1846-1848. So, it seems that this word’s origins aren’t as clear as a bell.

Here is the word used in Poe’s poem:

“In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

You can find more about this word here:

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Tomnoddy

“Quite apart from the stones no spider has ever liked being called Attercop, and Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody.” (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Flies and Spiders”) When I first read that, I thought two things: Bilbo better hurry up or the dwarves were going to be eaten by the spiders; and what in the world was a tomnoddy and why should I be offended by it? Well, today I decided to find out exactly what a tomnoddy is and share it with you.

According to, tomnoddy means “a fool; a dunce; a noddy.” In Scotland, it can also mean “a sea bird” or more specifically “a puffin.” I’m going to assume Tolkien’s intention was to call the spiders fools and not puffins. 😉

This interesting word has an even more interesting etymology. According to, tomnoddy was originally “dodman,” which meant “snail.” “Dodman” changed into “hodmadod” which meant “snail,” but it also came to mean “a deformed or clumsy person” which brings us one step closer to being an insult. Since “hodmadod” just wasn’t strange enough, the word morphed into “hoddy-doddy” which also meant “snail,” as well as “a short and stout person” and “a fool, blockhead, or simpleton.” After “hoddy-doddy” came “hoddypoll.” This word had nothing to do with snails, thank goodness, and meant a “fumbling inept person.” Then came “noddypoll” which was shortened to “noddy,” which meant “stupid person.” Then noddy met Tom, and together, they became tomnoddy. And of course, that brings us back to Tolkien.

The most famous quote using tomnoddy is from Tolkien. He uses it in the quote at the beginning of the post and also in the song that Bilbo sang, from the chapter “Flies and Spiders.”

Old Tomnoddy, all big body,

Old Tomnoddy can’t spy me!

Tom Noddy is also the stage name of an American entertainer. He performs on TV and all over the world. His “bubble magic” act involves clear and smoke bubbles, building structures with them, and creating cube bubbles.

I couldn’t find a video where someone actually said the word tomnoddy. But I did find a clip of the spider scene from The Desolation of Smaug. I think that was a wasted opportunity to have Martin Freeman sing the spider song from the book! 😉

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Snickersnee

It is the Council of Elrond. Frodo has just told the Council he will take the Ring to Mordor, and Gandalf has agreed to help him see it done. Suddenly, Aragorn stands up and says, “If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my snickersnee!” Wait a minute. That’s not exactly what happened, is it? You, the viewer of all Middle Earth movies, would protest. What is Aragorn talking about? Is he speaking in Elvish? Aragorn could pledge his life, honor, or sword, but his snickersnee?

Well, it turns out that if Aragorn had pledged his snickersnee to protect Frodo, he would have been correct. A snickersnee, according to The Free Online Dictionary, is an archaic word that means “a knife resembling a sword” or “the act of fighting with knives.” According to, the term snickersnee was first used in the 1690’s and comes from the term “snick-or-snee” which was in turn derived from the Dutch phrase “steken of snijden” meaning to stick and to cut. 

There’s a Louis Carroll poem, Jabberwocky, that mentions something similar to snickersnee, a snicker-snack.

“One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.”

There’s also another quote that includes a snickersnee from W. S. Gilbert in The Mikado.

“Oh, never shall I / Forget the cry, / Or the shriek that shrieked he, / As I gnashed my teeth, / When from its sheath / I drew my snickersnee!”

Here’s a video that includes the definitions of some other interesting words, including snickersnee:

Since you can’t have too much Lord of the Rings, I included the extended edition Council of Elrond scene. Just imagine Aragorn saying, “You have my snickersnee!.” 😉

If you’d like to know more about this cool word, you can read about it here:

If you have a unquenchable desire to own a snickersnee, then I have great news for you! You can buy one off of Ebay!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Interrobang

It could have been called the emphaquest or exclaragotive or interrapoint. It, however, was named the interrobang. You ask, what is it? Well, read on to find out!

The interrobang is a punctuation mark. It’s a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point.  According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the “interro” part of the word comes from the first part of “interrogation.” The “bang” part comes from printer’s slang for an exclamation point. It looks like a question mark on top of an exclamation point (or an exclamation point on top of a question mark, depending on how you see it :)).

When would you use an interrobang? Well, it would be used at the end of an incredulous or rhetorical question, such as, “He did what?!”

It was first invented in 1962 by Martin Speckter. A 1967 Time magazine article said, “If the interabang gains the acceptance of grammarians, printers and writers, it will be the first punctuation symbol to enter the printed language since the introduction of the quotation mark during the late 17th century.” It lost popularity by the end of the ’60s, however, and fell into obscurity. Today, you can find it in some modern typefaces, such as Wingdings 2, although it’s still not considered proper punctuation. The gnaborretin (interrobang backwards) is an upside down interrobang and is the Spanish version of the symbol.

I found a fantastic video about the history of the interrobang. The girl in the video even sells interrobang necklaces if you like to wear punctuation!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Taradiddle

Now, I’m not telling a taradiddle when I say that this is a strange-sounding, strange-looking word. I found it in a slideshow from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary called “Funny-Sounding and Interesting Words.” Taradiddle certainly fits the bill for “An Interesting Word” post!

Just what IS a taradiddle? No, it’s not a fish or a tropical fruit or a type of weather system. It’s a British term (the Brits get all the awesome words! 😉 ) meaning “a fib” or “pretentious nonsense.” In both cases it’s used as a noun. Its first known use was in a 1796 dictionary. Some have tried to claim it comes from the old English verb “diddle,” meaning to cheat, but no one’s been able to prove that. If someone tells you that they know the true history of the word taradiddle, you can tell them that they’re telling you a taradiddle! 🙂 Authors such as G.K. Chesterton and George Orwell are well-known users of this word.

You can learn more about taradiddle from Merriam-Webster’s word of the day podcast:

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Foofaraw

This is a very strange word. It sounds funny, and it looks funny. I first saw the word on my favorite internet thesaurus (, after clicking on a slideshow called, “Seven Wacky Words Born in the USA.”

So, just what is a foofaraw? No, it’s not some strange exotic bird or an alien race from Star Trek. It actually has two different meanings. From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the first definition is “frills or flashy finery.” Definition number two is a little surprising, since foofaraw also means, “a disturbance or to-do over trifles.” In both cases it is used as a noun. The word seems to come from the Spanish word fanfarron, which means a braggart or a blusterer. Another possible source for the word is from the French word, frou -frou, which means frills.

A very interesting article about this word is found here:

I couldn’t find any great quotes containing the word foofaraw (I wasn’t too surprised). But please, no foofaraws about no quotes with foofaraw. I did find a video:

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – View Halloo

Many have heard it from the classic Disney movie, Mary Poppins. I actually encountered the word first in a Sherlock Holmes case, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” used when Holmes and Watson were burglarizing Mr. Milverton’s house. “…and one fellow raised a view-halloa as we emerged from the veranda and followed hard at our heels.” The word is “view halloa” or the more commonly spelled “view halloo.” Both spellings are found with dashes and without dashes.

So, what is a view halloo? Well, according to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, view halloo is “used in fox hunting on seeing a fox break cover.” In other words, a view halloo is a sharp call used to alert the other members of the fox hunting party that a fox has been spotted. Its first known use was in 1761.

Another instance of the word is found in 221b, a poem by Vincent Starrett, which is about Sherlock Holmes, “But still the game’s afoot for those with ears, Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo…” And of course there’s the classic moment in Mary Poppins. (Which in my personal opinion, is the best moment of the entire movie. :))

~ Kayla