Hadj

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Hadj

noun: variant of Hajj, Hajji

Hm. Okay, then:

Hajj \ˈhaj\

noun: the pilgrimage to Mecca prescribed as a religious duty for Muslims

I’ve been playing a lot of Words with Friends and Bananagrams lately, and let me tell you, when I get to play this word, I celebrate just a bit. Even if played without any bonuses, this word will grab you a cool 16 points in any Scrabble-type game.

But I digress.

I must say, one of my favorite things about the English language–though, admittedly, it is also one of the things that makes it so difficult for others to learn–is the many far-flung origins of its vocabulary. Erin, a good high school friend of mine, once described English as “a language that lurks in back alleyways, mugging other languages and rummaging through their pockets for spare vocabulary.” I quite agree–and see it as the best possible way for a language to function. How else would we end up with such a marvelous and Scrabble-friendly word as hadj?

So, how to use this word? Well, to copy a friend’s reply on a questionable Words with Friends play:

I just played the word “hadj.”

More seriously, though, I see no reason not to use this word as a synonym for pilgrimage. Maybe try using it like this:

Alison’s epic hadj ended at last, her need for ice cream finally satiated by the local Baskin Robbins.

Or:

I felt as if I had completed a hadj or something when I finally returned from abroad. I felt exhausted, of course, but also confirmed in my new path.

Or, of course, there’s the traditional sense of the word, which would look like this:

Tyler made his hadj last year, and was delayed on the way back–I was almost worried he wouldn’t make it back in time for the wedding!

However you use it, hadj‘s origins are both obvious and obtuse–it comes directly from the Arabic, but information on its date of origin in English is either unknown or unreported. And, apparently, this nifty word hasn’t only left its mark on English and Arabic–it’s also related to the Hebrew words haghagh (he made a pilgrimage) and hagh (gathering).

So apparently English isn’t the only language with sticky fingers–or, perhaps, a penchant for Scrabble.

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Tomfoolery

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Tomfoolery \ˌtäm-ˈfül-rē, -ˈfü-lə-\

noun: playful or foolish behavior

When I was college, my roommate and I became slightly obsessed with this word. She saw it in a movie at some point–for the life of me, I don’t know which one–and we decided that we should start each and every day by leaping out of bed and asking each other: “What sort of tomfoolery should we get into today?”

Sadly, this never actually happened. But! It could have.

So obviously, that’s one way to use tomfoolery. Here are a few more:

Their  tomfoolery finally reached such heights that I had to coax Raul off the roof with a sandwich, for fear he’d hurt himself. The things my husband will do for a sandwich…

or:

Lisa had never liked clowns. Which is why, I suppose, she decided it would be a good idea to stand up in the middle of their performance and shout “I hate this stupid tomfoolery!” It’s just so unfortunate she happened to do this right as they started throwing the cream pies…

or:

I’ve never understood why pool signs say “No running, no diving.” Why don’t they just say “No tomfoolery,” and be done with it?

Be careful how you use it, though; the word tomfoolery is pretty new, with a first usage around 1812, but the person form, tomfool, dates from the 1640s, and derives from the 14h century Middle English term Thom Foole, meaning an insane person. Not exactly PC.

Buuuut I’m guessing that since no one really knows that part, you can feel free to start calling your friends tomfools with no repercussions.

In any case, let the tomfoolery begin!

Swelter

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Swelter \ˈswel-tər\

1: (verb) to suffer, sweat, or be faint from heat

2: (noun) a state of oppressive heat

Coming off the heels of what was supposed to be the hottest day of Oregon’s summer yesterday, I couldn’t think of a better word than swelter to initiate this new blog. In particular, I like the noun form, which sees use much less frequently than its verb twin. But just imagine the possibilities of the noun swelter in your daily conversation!

You’ll often hear the verb form this way:

“It’s sweltering outside! I guess this is where all that global warming stuff comes from, huh?”

But how much better is it to see the noun form, like this:

The summer swelter was oppressive to Blaire, who wanted nothing more than to step outside without drowning in his own sweat.

Or, even better, like this:

The swelter of his gaze could have melted ice–or, in any case, made it dribble a little. I wanted nothing more than to talk to him, and I would have–had I not been wearing nothing but a clown wig and bikini.

And where did this wonderful word come from? It’s been in the English language since the 1400s, and comes from Old English sweltan, to die; that, in turn, came from the Proto-Germanic swel, to burn slowly.

Well that’s graphic.

So please, no more “This heat is killing me!” Who needs it, when you can say, essentially, “This heat is burning me slowly to death!” In other words–“This heat is sweltering!