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23 August 2010

Weird words - Ugsome

First of all, apologies for not having a 'Monday's Word' last week.  As many of you know, my dear friend and fellow author, Sharon Donovan had surgery recently and I've been very worried about her and was so busy trying to find out her progress, and keep her many friends informed, I just didn't get round to it.  I'm glad to say she's making good progress and I'm posting updates on her blog as I get them, and have also set up a post for comments at www.sharondonovan.blogspot.com


Back to Monday's word: Ugsome (No, I haven't taken to writing horror fiction! *Grin*)

Michael Quinion in his 'World Wide Words'* says:

'If this word reminds you of the inarticulate cry of disgust that's most often spelled "ugh!" then you're on the mark. "Ugh" comes from the much less familiar "ugsome", something loathsome or horrible. In acase of linguistic turn-and-turn-about, "ugsome" derives from theancient and long defunct word "ug", which about a millennium ago
came into English from the Old Norse "ugga", to dread. That Old Norse word is also the source of "ugly" (which meant frightful or horrible before it weakened to refer to something merely unpleasing in appearance). You could argue that "ugsome" is the opposite of "handsome".

In the centuries before Shakespeare, "ugsome" was common enough,mostly in Scotland and northern England, but then almost completelydied out except in dialect. It was resurrected in the eighteenth century by writers seeking an archaic word to help set a historicalscene. The following century, popular authors such as Sir Walter
Scott ("Like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken"), Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton ("''Tis an ugsome bit of road!' said the Corporal, looking round him") andCharles Dickens ("One very ugsome devil with goggling eyes, seems to hold up frightful claws, to bar the traveller's way") regained it some small exposure, though it was never very popular. Today, "ugsome" is unknown to most English-speaking people'

'Ugh' is still often used in every day conversation and in fiction, if our characters come up against 'something nasty in the woodshed'!

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2010. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewds.
Reproduced with permission