Friday, 5 June 2015

Word of the month

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
- Albert Einstein
'The Alchemist' by William Fettes Douglas, 1855, Victoria & Albert Museum, no. 67-1873
'The Alchemist' by William Fettes Douglas, 1855, Victoria & Albert Museum, no. 67-1873    
When we tell people that we are archivists, we often get “that look”.  A sort of quizzical “huh?”   Separately, we have both had a couple of taxi drivers think we have said ‘alchemists’, strangely only taxi drivers have asked this.  If we could turn base metals into gold, we probably wouldn't be getting a taxi (Victoria would have a driver).  One person even asked Jo if it were possible to make a living as an anarchist!

One of the greatest perks of being an archivist is that you never stop learning new things.  We are truly Jacks of All Trades.  One day you might have to read up on the organisational structure of charities and the next find out about First World War battles.

This is certainly the case with Durham at War.  As any of you who have done some transcribing for the project will know, 100 years ago people wrote quite differently.  Grammatically, sentences seem to meander with clause tacked on to clause; commas and semi-colons proliferate in a way seldom seen today.  Not to mention random capitalisation at the start of words.  Another difference is the vocabulary used.  This has led to the Durham at War Office instituting a “Word of the Month”.

From a phrase book for English soldiers (D/DLI 2/6/10/260)
D/DLI 2/6/10/260 From a phrase book for English soldiers
Moo-tard:  Moutarde, French for mustard
This was found in a card issued to soldiers with French words and their phonetic spellings.  We just loved the thought of your average Tommy using this!

Fossick:  Rummage; search
A current favourite of Jo’s, who has used it in an email to a volunteer recently!  Very useful as an archivist: “I’ll just go and fossick through that box, see if I can find it.”  Found in the diary of Wilson Pease, one of the Darlington Quaker families.

Hooroosh:  Wild; hurried; excited state
From the context we came across it in, it sounds more like something to do with persuading horses to travel in the desired direction. Found in a letter by Colonel Hubert Morant dated 15 December 1918, “Just before jumping it someone hoorooshed them away & they galloped wildly round back to the where they had come from…”
A quick internet search shows that it was used much more recently, May 2012, in an editorial on the Financial Times website concerning the practice of estate agents, “A gritty race ensued, with the gaggle of thirtysomethings hoorooshing down a narrow staircase and tearing back to the estate agency.”

Deuce!:  [in this context] Devil
Victoria likes the gentlemanly quality of this curse.  Very satisfying exclamation that won’t get you into trouble, even if your Gran is listening.  Found in the prisoner of war diary of Captain Henry Wilkinson, (the focus of last week's blog) “I had a deuce of a time in the cookhouse, sweating away.”

Ostrobogulous:  Slightly risqué; bizarre; unusual
Ok, to be honest this isn't one that we found in a First World War document.  We were looking up synonyms for strange/weird and this was too good not to include!  We still haven’t quite managed to use it in a sentence, though! 

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
- Mahatma Gandhi

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