Here’s a game for the festive season, using some weird and wonderful words sourced from Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words. The aim is to guess the correct definition of each word, from the three versions given. You can try it on your own, or play it with others in a format similar to the panel game ‘Call My Bluff’. (see below for instructions)
I rustled up this game a few years ago, dipping into my two-volume Halliwell with delight to find tempting words. We then played it at our Exeter Writers Christmas Party, with much mirth. I’ve added a few more words for this version, and may come up with a Part Two in due course, such is the delight of dipping into Halliwell!
Answers are at the end.
To be sexually aroused
To feel restless and perplexed
A term for seasickness, used by seasoned sailors to scorn those with no sea legs
A compulsory tea-break halt for train drivers in the early days of Saturday rail excursions
A kind of door-wedge, used in back-to-back houses, to prevent drunken neighbours bursting in after a Saturday night in the pub (Birmingham)
A time unlawful to catch salmon, from evensong on Saturday until sunrise on Monday, in the northern parts of the British Isles
Well, what do you think? Train excursion, life in the back-to-backs, or time to put down the fishing rod?
An owl catcher, who sold live owls for mousing, or to bring good luck to the home.
An ignorant person, who peers like an owl and screeches like a gull. (Kent)
To pry about, be stealthy, and thievish – (Suffolk)
To feel uncertain, especially in Lincolnshire
A dunce or very forgetful person
A pleasing fancy, whim or trifle
A silly, effeminate fellow – a term of insult often combined as ‘a meacock and a milksop’
A term for the finest barnyard cockerel, judged by his plumage
A type of spigot used to stop up a barrel, sometimes used as an obscene euphemism
To nag, whinge and whine in Norfolk
A hearty slab of bread and cheese in Dorset
To be wrong, just plain wrong, in Lancashire
To snap or crack (Somerset)
Dregs of beer
A weaving pattern, involving a particular rhythm of the loom
The song of a female cat as she purrs (Lincolnshire)
A kind of musing phrase, like ‘ho hum’, said when hesitant
Marks left on the face by vigorous kissing
Where two loaves have joined together in the oven
A ridge of icy snow, which girls would try to kiss and melt to improve their luck in love
A giddy, romping girl (West Country) May imply wantonness
A small kind of pony trap, popular on the Welsh borders
A shaped cutlet, made out of odds and ends of meat, beans etc
A delicate snare, to catch stoats and weasels
A cold in the head (Suffolk)
A tangle of sheep’s wool, such as found on thorn bushes (Devon)
Part of a type of church bell
A hiding place in a clapper bridge to leave messages, goods etc. (Devon)
To beat, abuse and fight seriously
To rush or fall headlong (Bedfordshire)
A small puppy, often the runt of the litter
To holler loudly and in a crazy manner
An insult, meaning a small and worthless person
To go nunting is to collect acorns for pigs
To make an effort (North)
A small muff used by ladies in cold weather
An affectionate term for the youngest child of the family (Yorkshire)
A kind of toadstool, once added to snuff to make up weight cheaply
The tail fin of a fish (Somerset)
An indecisive person, who thinks all the time about whether (‘wudder’) to do something
To make a sullen roar
The words listed in bold are the correct definitions
Tossicated – To be sexually aroused
Saturday-stop – A time unlawful to catch salmon, from evensong on Saturday until sunrise on Monday, in the northern parts of the British Isles
Owlguller– To pry about, be stealthy, and thievish – (Suffolk)
Ninny-nonny -To feel uncertain, especially in Lincolnshire
Meacock – A silly, effeminate fellow – a term of insult often combined as ‘a meacock and a milksop’
Kipe -To be wrong, just plain wrong, in Lancashire
Crap – All definitions are correct! – To snap or crack (Somerset), Dregs of beer, Money (North)
Three thrum – The song of a female cat as she purrs (Lincolnshire)
Kissing-crust – Where two loaves have joined together in the oven
Giglet – A giddy, romping girl (West) May imply wantonness
Snurle – A cold in the head (Suffolk)
Clapperclaw – To beat, abuse and fight seriously
Bittiwelp – To rush or fall headlong (Bedfordshire)
Nunt – To make an effort (North)
Snuffkin – A small muff used by ladies in cold weather
Wudder – To make a sullen roar
How to play with others
You need three people on the panel, and others to guess the answers. Each person on the panel has a list of the words, with only the definition that they will give. They don’t know if theirs is right or wrong when they plead their cause. Each panellist has the job of convincing the others that their answer is the right one, by giving the definition and explaining a bit more about it. At the end, the master or mistress of ceremonies reads out the correct answers and all the players tot up the number of guesses they’ve got right.
I’ve created play sheets which you can access below as a PDF – one for each panellist, with their list of definitions, and a comprehensive one with the right answers in bold, for the quiz master.
I do hope you enjoy it, and if you have any quarrel with the answers, don’t take it up with me – address them to James Orchard Halliwell; (21 June 1820 – 3 January 1889) – an English Shakespearean scholar, antiquarian, and a collector of English nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Interestingly for me, too, he also edited the Private Diary of Dr. John Dee, magician and astrologer, and the man who helped Queen Elizabeth I to choose an auspicious date for her coronation.
If you fancy consulting Halliwell yourself, you can buy copies second hand, or there are sites where you can find the text online, eg at Open Library. My own two volumes arrived in an interesting fashion. When I was keenly into my folk singing period as a teenager, I took part in the ongoing folk workshop run by radio producer Charles Parker. (You can read more about him and the influence of his Radio Ballads at my post Singing at the Holy Ground.) Charles always ended up with more books than he could ever hope to read – he once said that he would like to be incapacitated for a few months so that he could catch up with all the books waiting for him! Anyway, he had a spare volume of Halliwell K-Z, and gave it to me. It was a kind of talisman and I perused it frequently. But it was only with the advent of online book buying that I suddenly realised I could acquire Vol A-K quite easily! So now my set is complete; even if the glue is giving way and the cover cracking it somehow adds to the charm.
Happy Christmas to all my readers!
Wishing you and yours a safe and enjoyable celebration. I conclude with a Victorian card from my collection of historic Christmas cards.