Words Don’t Always Come Easy

Beyond Books Takeover Treasure Trail Question Six:

Q6. Words don’t always come easy, so what was the first word that my husband and I defined differently?



Language is a living breathing thing.  It changes, evolves.  And every now and then new words come up and sometimes old ones recur which have been missed by others, occasionally I chuck out a word that no one in my family has ever heard before.

The most recent example of this is that we had a Midsomer Murders on the other day and I missed a bit, being in the kitchen, so when I came in, I said, “Has the old bloke carked it yet?”

He looked at me like I was a nut job.  Okay, maybe he’s not so wrong, after all we’ve been together a while, so he knows me quite well.  But the rest of the conversation went a little something like this:

Him:  “What?”

Me:  “Has the old guy carked it?”

Him: “Carked it?”

Me:  “Yeah, you know, carked it, is he gone?  Dead?  Carked it?”

Him:  (Frowning at me like I’d just grown a second head) “That’s not even a word.”

Me:  “Yes it is.”

Him:  “Not it’s not.  Where did you hear it?”

Me: “I don’t know, I’ve known it for years, you must have heard it before.”

Him: “No.  We’ve been married twenty-one years and you have never used that phrase before.”

Me: “Maybe it’s a south east thing.” (This has come up before as I’ll explain later)

Still, we were watching TV, so the conversation lulled, and since I had the laptop open I did a bit of a Google search, since I have a penchant for misspelling just about anything I wasn’t sure what I was going to get, but there it was, come up before I’d even fully typed the phrase.

Turns out it’s not a South East thing.  The phrase originated in India, from the time of the Raj.  It has the same root as the word kharki, coming from the Hindi word for dirt, dust, etc.  That was as much as surprise to me as it was to my husband, but it’s nice to be validated as not a complete lunatic.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened, and we’ve learned to ask clarification now.  The first incident happened few years ago (well, over twenty of them now), it was before we were married, and I had just brought a new car – a Fiesta I think.  Well anyway, I proudly show it off, and he said it looked pokey!  I wanted to slap him, I was that insulted.

At this point some of you may be with me, and others with him wondering what on Earth was wrong.

Well to explain, here’s the two definitions we were using for the same word:

Me: “Pokey” – To be uncomfortably small and cramped.

Him:  “Pokey” – To have considerable power or acceleration.

We were having a bit of a laugh about this with our son when he popped back from University for the weekend, turns out he hadn’t heard the phrase ‘carked it’ either.  Now he’s up in Lincoln, he’s finding there are words that he hasn’t come across before either.  The two he shared with us were nesh and gip.  Now I’d never hear either of these words, but my husband was aware of nesh.

Apparently ‘nesh’ is chilly, in connection with the weather, though the Urban Dictionery defines it as “Being either afraid of the cold or feeling the cold a lot”, as used across the Midlands of England and the north and gives the example of use as: “You nesh git, you don’t need a coat.”

I was a bit worried to ask about ‘gip’ but apparently that is a Yorkshire term meaning to wretch. Outsiders often assume it means to vomit, but gipping is only a precursor to vomiting and vomiting does not necessarily ensue.

This doesn’t just happen at home, it happens everywhere.  Every year the Oxford English Dictionary adds new words from common usage.  A relatively recent and much controversial entry was McJob,  is slang for a low-paying, low-prestige dead-end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement.  Something of this even came up in work a few days ago, I don’t remember the exact word, it was one of these annoying things like ‘optioneering’ which just makes me want to spit every time I hear it.  I was asked if it was a real word, I said I didn’t believe so, but we all knew what was meant by it, of course some clever so-and-so with a smartphone went and looked it up.  It does exist, but was marked as jargon, which saved the editors reputation at least.

Anyway, the point is that words are weird and they don’t always mean the same thing everywhere, so be careful before you take offence.

Now, go check out John M Olsen at https://www.facebook.com/JohnsWritingStuff for question 7!


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2 responses to “Words Don’t Always Come Easy

  1. Pingback: Words Don’t Always Come Easy | gailbwilliams.co.uk

  2. Pingback: Beyond Books Takeover Treasure Trail – Question 6 | The Write Route

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