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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Old Man Shouts At Cloud #5: One word leads on to another, and another…

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Michael McDonald’s battered copy of the 1980 imprint of Bedlam, Boudoir & Brouhaha, or Remarkable Words with Astonishing Origins, written by John Train and illustrated by Pierre Le-Tan, accompanied by an essential tool for reading.

While playing Word Chums with a friend the other day I accidentally invented a new word: ‘wordrobe’. This is how so many of the great discoveries come about.

‘Wordrobe’ is particularly pleasing because it is so close to the spelling of another word: ‘wardrobe’. A wardrobe is of course for the storing of clothes. Its origin can be found in the Old High German word ‘roub’ for ‘booty’ or ‘looted clothing’, and ‘ward’, to keep watch over, so essentially it’s a safe hiding place for the Chinese jeans you got with a five-fingered discount from Kmart.

Having invented ‘wordrobe’ I had to imbue it with meaning. It’s pretty obvious. A ‘wordrobe’ is a robe worn by mages and wizards and suchlike who use the power of words to befuddle, transmogrify and generally defy the laws of physics. These words are usually spoken out loud, and in most readings include ‘Maleficus!’, ‘Abracadabra!’ and ‘It fell off the back of a cart but you don’t need to know that’.

A wordrobe could be any colour you like. It should cover the whole body right down to the magesandals (another new word) and collect mud about its hem whenever you go outside. It can be decorated with symbols, if the wizard knows a handy seamsperson, because these, like the Nike logo, can further disempower the gullible.

Why the robe should derive from a word associated with robbery, I’m not sure. Perhaps some cunning lexicologist was having a go at certain priests.

So, I now entrust you with my new word ‘wordrobe’. Use it as often as you like and incorporate it into your games of Dungeons & Dragons, in which the wordmage keeps the wordrobe in a wardrobe before donning it to defeat a Shambling Mound, perhaps left over from the cat’s dinner.

As the wordmages would know, ‘dungeon’ derives from a Latin word for domination, and ‘dragon’ from a Greek word for serpent.

And so on…


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