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Gnarly

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Gnarly

Postby Slava » Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:48 pm

We somehow skipped this one, so I thought I'd post it:

Dr. Goodword wrote:• Gnarly •

Pronunciation: NAHR-lee
Hear it! <http://www.alphadictionary.com/sounds/gnarly.mp3>

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Covered with gnarls or knurls, knurly, gnarled, knotty. 2. Twisted or deformed, rugged, time-worn. 3. (Surfing slang) Awesome, challenging, dangerous, as a gnarly surf. 4. (Slang) Awesome, excellent, attractive, cool, as a gnarly (excellent) trumpet player.

Notes: Today's Good Word is about as odd a character as we will find in the English lexicon. It is the adjective for the noun gnarl "twisted knot on a tree", but its meaning has exploded in recent decades, as we see above. Remember to write the initial G but forget it when you pronounce this word, just as we write the initial K on 'knurl' but ignore it in speech.

In Play: It is difficult to pin down the meanings of this word, but most of them bear some resemblance to the original: the rugged, hard, twisted knots that sometimes grow on hardwood trees: "Carver Mupp spent his weekends searching the woods for gnarly trees that might produce an eye-catching pattern in one of his hand-
turned bowls." However, as we saw in the Meaning above, the sense of today's word has wandered far from its beginnings: "Andy Bellam's gnarly hands were elegant expressions of the 82 years they had absorbed."

Word History: The noun underlying today's Good Word, 'gnarl', started out as a mispronunciation of 'knurl'. 'Knurl' became 'knarl' became 'gnarl'-not much of a journey. 'Knurl' is an old Germanic word found in several Germanic languages, such as German Knorren "gnarl". But as Europeans spent less and less time in forests, this word almost slipped away from us. Surfers saved it from the dustbin of history by first referring to torturous waves and surf as 'gnarly'. Since surfers look for gnarly surf, however, the word was soon taken to mean "awesome" at roughly
the same time that this word became the going slang for "excellent". As a result we soon began hearing expressions like, "Dora is a gnarly typist." (Today we thank Ralph Mowry for his very gnarly suggestion of this word as a Good Word.)

-Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary
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Postby Slava » Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:54 pm

So, if this was originally spelled with a "K," why did it switch to "G?" Were they originally pronounced? Or should we start saying gnife?
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K and G

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:14 am

The sounds [k] and [g] are identical except that [k] is accompanied by a puff of air when pronounced and the vocal cords vibrate when [g] is pronounced. It is easy to verify this: place a finger close to the lips and pronounce [kuh] and [guh]. Now pronounce he same words while holding your throat (Adam's apple). You should feel a puff of air with [kuh] but not [guh] and the Adam's apple should vibrate with [guh] but not [kuh].

Try to pronounce the consonants without the vowel sound [uh]. Vocal cords always vibrate for vowels.
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Postby beck123 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:03 am

In the Germanic languages, the initial "K" would indeed be pronounced, as we do in recently-acquired words like "knish" or the family name "Knievel." Words of this sort that have been in our language longer (knot, knife) have lost the initial K in their English pronunciation.

Another Germanism that we've lost is the hard "th," although it is retained in the name, "Thomas." So today we spend dollars, not thollars, because the hard "th" was lost in "Thaler" before the word reached our language.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:36 pm

To say nothing of Knick-Knack (carwichet implied.)
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Postby beck123 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:59 pm

Frozen wastes? Ew. Are you posting from a thumpster full of half-eaten knockwurst in Knebraska knear a WiFi hot spot?
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Postby beck123 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:08 pm

sandwichet - a puzzling lunch packed for you by someone else for your trip to the beach

wickedwichet - a devilishly difficult conundrum, more common in western States.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:21 pm

I am most definitely posting from the frozen state of
Knebraska where the temp right now is 5 deg. But it is
knot knockwurst but peaknut and jelly. Don't know how
to use a Wifi thingie.
/We definitely have wickedwichets called weather. Hurting
us seriously the winter.
I like the wicket wichet: carwichet being a word from
WOTD way back when that I adopted to my usage.
The Earl of Sandwichet I am I am
PeaKnut Butter and lots of jam.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:21 pm

I definitely need an avatar.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Postby sluggo » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:36 pm

The relationship of K and G are well-explained, but I'd still like to know the answer to Slava's question-- whence cometh the evolution of K > G, and where else it might appear.

Gnu? Gnat?
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:59 pm

Gnostic
Knapsack
Me too, I'd like to know.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sun May 27, 2012 1:10 am

I watch the development and demise of slang words, sometimes with glee. I have long used the wonderful word gnarl and its grammatical cousins. When I heard the slang use of gnarly I could hardly believe my ears. It seems to have been a Valley Girl adaptation of surfers' description of a perfect wave. Hence perfect anything. Then, as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared. I was never so glad to see a definition die. Now we can contemplate gnarly trees, gnarly hands, gnarly hammer handles (easier to grip) and perhaps even gnarly waves. But gnarly as a slang synonym of "cool", "neato" or "keen" (I'm dating myself) seems to be dead. RIP.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun May 27, 2012 9:20 am

Was there a sticky wicket hiding in this discussion some place?
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sun May 27, 2012 4:59 pm

Perry : Did you write this question out of your recent study of cryptography? I can't decrypt it.
Even though I have never had or seen a sticky wicket, I am aware of this slang expression. Are you being erudite or obtuse in asking me a question I do not understand? I know humor loses something in its explanation, but please illuminate me in my ignorant condition. I hope this doesn't give you a sticky wicket.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun May 27, 2012 5:25 pm

Look up at Luke's post on 1/28/10, which inspired the crack. Not directed at you, btw, but open. One of our British participants can probably explain the expression which comes from cricket that seems to have wickets, of which some are called sticky. Frankly, sounds to me like someone was laying out a croquet ground after eating pb&j. ;-)
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