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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jul 22, 2012 11:12 pm

• agley •

Pronunciation: ê-glayHear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective-Adverb

Meaning: Askew, awry, crooked, off course, askant.

Notes: Today's odd little Good Word belongs to a substantive category of adjectives that serve equally as adverbs without the usual suffix -ly: "His plans all went agley." This class of adjectives includes aglow, aboard, and adrift. They are peculiar in that, as adjectives, they are used only in predicate position: "Your glasses are agley" but not "your agley glasses".

In Play: Probably the best use of today's Good Word, certainly the most widely recognizable instance, is found in Robert Burn's poem, "To a Mouse" in Poems (1785): "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley." John Steinbeck expanded this thought into his 1937 novel set in the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men. Enjoy the rarity of this word and don't let the mystery of its origin dissuade you from using it: "I don't play darts with Rick O'Shea in the pub since his throw is apt to go agley after he has put down a few pints."

Word History: This word is another odd little lexical gift from the Scots. a- in this instance is a reduction of on, once written as a separate word but later merged with the noun it attaches to. Gley "to squint, look askance" is another Scottish peculiarity that somehow slipped into English. It seems to be related to gledge "squint, look askance" but exactly how is unclear. Indeed, how Scots English comes by most such lexical oddities is a great mystery that we will not resolve here. Enjoy the mystery. (Chris Stewart seldom goes agley in suggesting words for our series; he always sends us words like today's with fascinating stories that tell us something about ourselves.)
• The Good Dr. Goodword

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David McWethy
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Agley comes to Texas

Postby David McWethy » Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:47 am

In one of his many works, "Lonesome Dove" author Larry McMurtrey traced the origin of Agley's second cousin, pronounced antigodlin' (and spelled any way one chose so long as it was close) this way:

In the simplistic religious dogma of frontier Texas, it was generally understood and accepted that on Judgment Day Jesus would return to earth concomitant with the rising sun (rising sun/rising Son?). Those mortals who had lead righteous lives were buried in graves that were "God-lined". i.e., running east/west, with the head of the corpus at the west end so the souls of the departed would be the first to see the returned Christ.

The bodies of those who'd lived lives of flagrant sin--or strangers with no known family--were buried in graves that were either oriented 180-degrees from those of the Chosen, or just "ever which way" (anti-God-lined).

It's interesting to me that two somewhat similar-sounding words (agley and antigodlin') could have the same broad-stroke meaning, yet be the progeny of two separate families--"cousins" as it were--with no common ancestors.

Think I'll sit back now and watch my betters masticate on that bit of linguistic gristle.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:19 pm

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and agleys and antigodlins.

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:54 pm

Uh, yeah!
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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