The Toad's Words

Excursus #20

Welcome to 1999. And no, this is not the last year in the century - next year is!

With this Toad, we are trying to keep it simple. (You know, start the year off easy.) We use all one-syllable words (mostly) starting with the letter 'i.'

Ism, noun

Pronounced iz am (a as in about) accent on iz

A distinctive doctrine, practice, or theory.

Yes, Virginia, this really is a word. And, no, it is not new. The Oxford English Dictionary shows a quote using 'ism' in 1680. The word is taken from the suffix -ism, as we would guess.

The church was so afraid of schisms that it disallowed all isms.

Imp, verb

Pronounced imp, accent on imp

As a verb, imp means to graft feathers onto a bird's wings in order to improve its flight. Apparently this is common in falconry. (You know, there is this little kestrel that keeps landing on my windowsill at work - do you suppose he wants to be imped?) It can also mean to equip with wings. (So Daedalus imped Icarus and himself.) Finally it can mean to extend or enlarge.

Apparently this version of the word 'imp' comes from the Old English impian meaning 'to graft.'

Noun. - As a noun, 'imp' means child of the devil, a small devil, or an evil spirit. It can also mean a mischievous child, a young playful urchin.

Here is how this version derived from 'to graft.' Apparently, impian became impe in Middle English meaning offshoot or sprig. At this point impe was used for people as well as plants and basically meant new or youthful. (Following this so far?). This eventually led to the meaning offspring or child. By the sixteenth century, it developed the pejorative meaning 'child of the devil, or 'small devil.' The non-pejorative version then disappeared and we are left with 'imp' as we know and love it today.

After seeing a show on falconry, that little imp Dennis tried to imp his parakeet by gluing chicken feathers on its wings. 

Ilk, noun

Pronounced ilk (i as in silk)

Kind, type, sort, or class.

This word has an interesting history. It derives from the Anglo Saxon ilca. This is made up of the Latin is, meaning 'he,' and the Anglo Saxon word gelīc, meaning 'like.' 'Ilk' used to be a simple synonym for the word 'same' but has not been used that way for 300 years or so. It survived in the expression "of that ilk" originally used only by the Scottish to mean someone named after the place they came from. To use a non-Scottish example: Blaricum of that ilk would have meant someone named Blaricum from a place called Blaricum. (For those of you wondering, Blaricum is in Holland.) Eventually, it came to mean "of the same family." Over time (probably the last one hundred years or so) it developed the more general meaning of 'sort,' or 'type.' Now it is always (that's a pretty strong word) used in expressions such as "of that ilk," "of the same ilk," or "of a different ilk."

Despite her name, Inga was an Inca or one of those Indians of that ilk. 

Irk, verb

Pronounced erk, (e as in term)

To affect with disgust, to disgust, annoy, irritate, to make weary.

The word seems to derive from the Middle English irken meaning to weary. There is some speculation that the word derived from the Old Norse yrkja meaning to work or to take effect on.

Ida was always irked when she had to clean the latrine or other tasks of that ilk. 

Ire, noun

Pronounced ir (long i as in pie)

Wrath, anger.

Most of my sources say this word is primarily used poetically. 'Ire' comes from the Latin īra meaning 'anger.'

Ira was often irked when his wife Irma got her ire up and behaved like an imp, simply because their son Ian started preaching about the evils of strychinism, pacifism, or one of the other isms he learned at college.

Disclaimer: The author, his peers, friends, and colleagues in no way take responsibility for crossed-eyed glances, slapped faces, rejected offers, or any draconian consequences as a result of using The Toad's Words.

Revised: August 27, 2000

Copyright by Michael L. VanBlaricum, 04 September 2000.

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