Haggard Hawks Tweets.

I never thought I’d be posting a link to tweets, since I use Twitter only to provide LH posts for those who like to get them that way, but here we are: Haggard Hawks Top 30 Tweets 2020. I referred to HaggardHawks (“Words, language, & etymology”; it’s the creation of Paul Anthony Jones) a few years ago but have never checked his Twitter feed (see disclaimer above). Now a MetaFilter post sent me to his year-end roundup, which is full of good stuff, including the German word Erklärungsnot (“refers to a moment in which you have been caught in a situation requiring justification, but cannot properly account for your actions. It literally means ‘explanation emergency’”) and respair (“the little-known opposite of ‘despair’: a word for a renewed or reinvigorated hope, or a recovery from anguish or hopelessness”; yes, it’s in the OED as a hapax from 1525: Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. “Respair hade in gude hope agane”). I thought surely “To DISAPPOINT literally means ‘to remove from office’” must be fake etymology, but no, the OED says “< Middle French desappointer, desappoincter, desapointer (French désappointer) to remove (a person) from an appointed office, to depose (a ruler).” Enjoy!


  1. PlasticPaddy says

    Re Erklärungsnot,
    In DWDS corpora
    Erklärungsnot-1977 (in Erklärungsnöten, i.e., pl.), 1990 (sing.)

  2. J.W. Brewer says

    This three-word title sounds like the set-up for a crash blossom …

  3. And a good one it is!

  4. Also Feuersnot, a Singgedicht by Richard Strauss.

  5. John Emerson says

    Those snotty, guttural Germans!

  6. Singing dicks, I call them.

  7. January First-of-May says

    I thought surely “To DISAPPOINT literally means ‘to remove from office’” must be fake etymology

    I think my favorite in the “hold on, that cannot possibly be the actual original meaning” category is “escalate” meaning “to ride on an escalator”.

  8. Lars Mathiesen says

    I wonder if whoever started talking about nuclear threats escalating was thinking about the escalator in the subway, or thinking they (probably he, in 1957) were coining a new latinate word from ex and scala.

    (The initial e- in French escale ~ ‘gangway’ is of course epenthetic and not from Latin ex-).

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says

    From the escalator (if the OED is to be believed), but not out of the blue.

    The original verb seems to have been more or less a joke – the OED’s two early quotations both put the word in quotation marks:
    1922 Granta 10 Nov. 93/2 I dreamt I saw a Proctor ‘escalating’, Rushing up a quickly moving stair.
    1927 Atlantic Monthly Jan. 48/1 With almost incredible ingenuity we ward off the bumps, plane the sharp corners, ‘escalate’ the heights.

    But although the verb then seems to vanish until the late 1950s, the noun ‘escalator’ has been busy becoming figurative, by itself and as the name of a clause in treaties providing for an increased supply in certain situations:
    1927 Brit. Weekly 14 Apr. 38/2 The mechanism of a great social ‘escalator’ whereby the ‘down and outs’ of Manchester have restored to them the loving ministry of Christian service.
    1932 Daily Express 1 July 9/1 France..wants an ‘escalator’ clause inserted in the agreement which would link up the war debts to America with this proposed fund.
    1943 J. D. Hicks Short Hist. Amer. Democracy xxxv. 729 He climbed aboard the political escalator in 1899 when he became a councilman.
    1948 Time 7 June 5/3 Labor leaders have never liked cost-of-living ‘escalator’ contracts, on the grounds that they tie the worker to a fixed standard of living.
    1950 Economist 9 Dec. 1003/1 Prices and wages are fellow-travellers on the same upward escalator.

    That last quote in particular seems to reflect the sense of things rushing upwards which feeds into the ‘out of control’ sense of the verb – the first quote for this new sense (which I would have said was more like a brand new verb) is:
    1959 Manch. Guardian 12 Nov. 1/1 The possibility of local wars ‘escalating into all-out atomic wars’.

  10. Lars Mathiesen says

    That is a nice complete fossil record, thanks! I haven’t managed to get access to the OED myself.

  11. David Marjanović says

    Rushing up a quickly moving stair.

    A singular stair at last!

    Prices and wages are fellow-travellers on the same upward escalator.

    Huh, in German that’s a spiral (perhaps spiraling out of control, though that’s not a common metaphor at all): die Lohn-Preis-Spirale.

  12. The other day upon the stair
    I met a man who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today;
    Gee, I wish he’d go away!

    Also, Pair of Stairs.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Antigonish and Inversnaid – are there more poems named after places they have little to do with?

    (Inversnaid would be much better if it was only its LAST verse – that’s the one I remember.)

  14. Inversnaid. (Yes, the last line is excellent.)

  15. Nikos Gatsos’ Amorgos has little or nothing to do with the island.

  16. One year to the day, I watched this No word for X video. Starting with our good old friend Erklärungsnot, it continues to
    Backpfeifengesicht (slappable face, for those who are yet unable to google after the new year celebration). Russian has a matching морда просит кирпича
    betriebsblind (nerdview without nerdiness)
    Lebenskünstler (too tricky, wait until you are able to google)
    Geisterfahrer (someone driving on the wrong side of the highway). This latest reminded me of a Russian joke: a wife calls her husband’s cell phone “Honey, they show on TV that some idiot is driving on the opposite side of the highway where you going”, husband “Just one idiot? There are thousands of them!”

    So, take your slappable face and happily drive it on the wrong side of the road, don’t be held back by routine blindness. And if you are lucky, there will be no need to explain yourself!

  17. David Marjanović says

    Lebenskünstler (too tricky, wait until you are able to google)

    Artist (Künstler) whose art is life… or rather survival.

  18. Trond Engen says

    In Norwegian the obvious calque livskunstner means someone using their* resources to get the most out of life, i.e someone who makes their lifestyle a work of art or passion.

    * always “his”

    Oh… Godt nyttår til alle!

  19. As I was trying to catch up on this thread, the juxtaposition of the dates “January 2, 2021” and “January 1, 2022” briefly left me bewildered.

  20. I hit this thread via “Random Link” and thought to check Haggard Hawks Top 30 Tweets 2021, which is also excellent; it includes things like:

    An Anglo-Saxon poem written in the late 10th century contains the unique word WINTERCEARIG. It essentially means ‘winter-sorrow’, and was likely meant to describe a feeling of downheartedness or despondency caused by, or as desolate as, the depths of winter.


    Water shrews were nicknamed BUBBLE-MICE in 19th century English.

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