By Luciana Patri
English is such a fascinating language with an extensive and sometimes eccentric vocabulary. Here are some of Luciana’s favourite words – what are yours?
- Deriving from the Old Norse word berserkr, meaning “raging warrior of superhuman strength”, Beserk is a very interesting word. In Norse tradition, the term “berserk” indicated the state of frenzy which warriors sought to achieve, before battle, so to be able to fight with reckless ferocity. Introduced into the English language by Walter Scott, this adjective can be used today as a synonym of “deranged” or “gone crazy” – to indicate a person’s insanely violent attitude, or to describe the irregular operation of inanimate objects.
- When I first read this aloud, the image of a huge bag crammed with cucumbers popped into my head. I was not completely wrong: as an adjective, “cumbersome” may be used to describe “something large or heavy and therefore hard to use or carry”… such as a bag full of cucumbers! Figuratively, it may refer to something complicated, which takes a lot of time and effort –and that’s why it particularly suits the bureaucratic field. For example – “Getting my student visa was such a cumbersome process!”
- If you have never seen this word before, you can easily mistake this word for the sound of some strange animal. If this was the case, you would not be too far from the truth: according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the word “gnaw” (gnagan in Old English) is meant to recall the act of “biting off little by little”. For instance, a pet hamster could be “gnawing” (in the sense of “chewing on”) its food. If you like metaphoric language, you could use it to depict a deeply worrisome issue or trouble which is wearing you out “as if by continued biting”.