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Skiving off

Actually, I am no longer skiving off. I was skiving off most of yesterday.

Dan Wells gave me a copy of The Idler’s Glossary, by Joshua Glenn & Mark Kingwell. From this, I can only conclude that I’m perceived not just as a crank, but as a lazy crank.

In any case, it contains wonderful words, such as skiver — a skiver being a shirker, one who dodges work, originating from British soldiers who appropriated the French verb esquiver, deliberately mispronounced it, and used it for their own depraved purposes. A lot of looting happens in war, it seems, and one of the things we loot is the dictionary.

Skiver is in common use in the UK (or was when I lived there), but one never skives; one skives off, as I did yesterday.

British English is full of such wonderful words. Yob (lout) and kip (nap) spring to mind. Everyday speech in Canada, on the other hand, suffers from a desperate poverty. It seems we never use a really interesting word when a bland one will do.

We don’t use enough words containing the letter x, for example. Consider flummox, lummox, perplex (and perplexity), and, um, banjax, for example.

The only X words in common use here, it seems, are exit, sex, and — as one would expect from a nation of hewers of wood, etc. — axe.

In Canada, one can gore someone’s ox, but one cannot flummox a lummox. One cannot banjax a banjo — or as the hip banjo player would have it, “banjax my axe.”

(As a writer of fiction, I am allowed to posit the existence of a hip banjo player. Suspend your disbelief.)

All of the best words in the English language employ the letter x, and we ignore them.

How sad.

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