On a whim, I requested The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities: A Yearbook of Forgotten Words from NetGalley. I received it in exchange for an honest review. Unlike most NetGalley books, this one was released in 2017 and is available now. I’ve enjoyed it and would recommend it as a gift for language lovers. It is what it says it is, a year’s worth of forgotten words arranged by date, often the word is related to an incident that happened on that date in history. It’s fun, occasional reading.
The author, Paul Anthony Jones, is clearly a lover of words. He has written 6 books about “obscure words and language facts” and runs the twitter account @HaggardHawks. His website describes the book as:
Inspired by the daily “Word of the Day” tweets over on the @HaggardHawks Twitter feed, The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities brings together an entire year’s worth of daily obscure vocabulary—with a twist of fascinating historical context added for good measure.
I enjoy when people are sharing the thing they love, even if it isn’t something I love. I’m a reader, so obviously I have a strong affection for words. I found this book surprisingly readable. I skipped around, looking at the word on my birth date (the oddly appropriate monomachy), other friends’ birth dates, and randomly flipping through. One of my favorite entries was early in the book, January 8:
Sheep’s-eye (v.) to look amorously at someone
Although the bill’s impenetrable legalese kept its rulings fairly vague, its architect, State Assemblyman Francis G. Landon, was less ambiguous when it came to explaining who he intended it to target. As he explained to the New York Morning Telegraph, ‘My bill is aimed at the flirters, gigglers, mashers, and makers of goo-goo eyes in public. We have all been disgusted with them . . . so they must be brought to their senses.’ Anyone caught in violation of Landon’s bill faced a $500 fine, or even up to a year in prison. Remarkably, Landon’s bill was passed the following day. Even more remarkably, it has never been repealed–meaning flirting has officially been illegal in New York ever since.
New York Cannonballers, did you know it is illegal to flirt in your state? Has the law changed in the last two years?
This would be a good book gift for a word lover.
The word for today, June 24th, is:
choreomania (n.) a mania for dancing
Nowadays, the word choreomania tends to be used fairly loosely, referring merely to a fondness or enthusiasm for dancing. But when it first appeared in English in the mid 1800s, use of the word wasn’t quite so frivolous: originally, choreomania referred to a literal and sometimes even fatal ‘dancing madness’, an epidemic of which broke out in Aachen, Germany, on 24 June 1374.
On this date, hundreds of townspeople in Aachen and the surrounding villages began inexplicably to dance around the streets, gyrating and leaping into the air for hours–and eventually days and weeks–on end. The maniacal ‘dancers’ would not eat or sleep, but merely dance continuously until they collapsed from total exhaustion.
Precisely what caused this outbreak of choreomania–which is also known simply as chorea, or St Vitus’ dance in honour of the patron saint of dancing–is unknown.