the sixth word herd

Galumphing — to prance about in a triumphant manner. Lewis Carroll coined the word for Through the Looking Glass (1871) in “Jabberwocky,” apparently by blending gallop and triumph.


A pretty penny — a considerable profit, or a large sum of money. The expression came into the language in the 1700s. George Eliot used it in her famous novel, The Mill on the Floss (1860) in this sentence: “That watered-silk she had on cost a pretty penny.”


Chortle — another lovely word coined by Lewis Carrol and used in “Jabberwocky,” a poem in Through the Looking Glass (1871). Probably a combination of chuckle and snort. The current meaning is “joyful laughter.”


Blue-eyed boy — the current darling, or favorite. More used in Britain and Australia than in America, and often with a derogatory or envious tone of voice. It seems to have been coined by P.G. Wodehouse in Damsel in Distress (1919): “He’s the blue-eyed boy, and everyone else is an also-ran.” Perhaps Wodehouse saw The Blue-eyed Boy, a 1916 painting by Modigliani. The boy in the painting has a self-important expression that makes me want to smack him. Hard.


Let your hair down — to behave in a free or uninhibited manner. Letting one’s hair down was a common part of womens’ lives in the 1600s. The hair was normally pinned up and only let down for brushing or washing. 


Give an inch, take a mile — make a small concession to someone who takes advantage of you. This expression was already a proverb in John Heywood’s 1546 collection, “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell.” The use of “mile” dates from about 1900.


  One thought on “the sixth word herd

  1. how9473
    January 6, 2021 at 9:16 am

    All of these I use fairly regularly and think of my parents and grandparents as I am saying them. Ah, the glorious richness of the English language!

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 6, 2021 at 9:31 am

      I agree! I love the English language and it’s infinite variety.


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