An Appeal For Help

By | December 17, 2004

Fans of Loose Wire may possibly recall a column I did a year or so ago, when I tried to match quaint English placenames with computer matters, assigning the names to things that didn’t yet have them. Here are a few:

  • chettle (collective n) The debris, such as crumbs, dead insects and lint, that gets stuck inside your computer keyboard.
  • hordle (v) The noise a modem makes when it is trying to connect to the Internet. As in: My modem isn’t working. I can’t hear it hordle.
  • whitnash (n) The pain in your shoulder at the end of a long laptop-carrying trip. As in: The trip went fine, but I’ve got serious whitnash and need a bubble bath.

I’ve taken the liberty of re-publishing the piece as part of a holiday season blitz, part of which is for purely selfish reasons. Frankly, I’ve been less than happy that these words have not, for the most part, entered mainstream usage, so I figured I needed to give them a boost. I have therefore submitted the above three to Harper Collins’ new Living Dictionary/Word Exchange project, where folk are encouraged to put in their own suggestions for entries.

Of course, that it was I who assigned these words their meanings may not make me exactly an objective chronicler of the language, but as the editor in chief of Collins Dictionaries, Jeremy Butterfield, points out in today’s Guardian, “Things change very quickly now.  Words can establish themselves within a month.”

So this is where you, o reader, come in. I’d like you to back my campaign by making your own submissions of any of the words (I’ve just done the above, but feel free to use any of the other ones) to the Word Exchange. You have to register first, but, trust me, it’s worth it. In exchange, you can tell your grandchildren you helped put Chettle on the map.

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