Bet you don’t know the word for…

The Great Author (that’s me) challenges you to use one word for your father and mother.

Correct. Parents. This was just to lead you up (or down) the garden path to the exasperating gnome.

While there is a word to describe mother and father (parents), there is no one word to describe aunts and uncles apart from generous (if they are). This is what is known as a ‘linguistic gap’.

There are more. In English, if we wish to refer to a group of women, we might, after a while, use “they” but this could also be used for a group of men. In other languages, such as French, they have a special word Elles (they) for women/girls and Ils (they) for men/boys.

If someone loses a husband/ wife, they are a widower/widow. If someone loses a parent they’re an orphan. However, there is no word for a parent who loses a child.

There is no word for someone who is not a virgin. There is no word for not to look.

Déjà vu (already seen) is in French but not in English.

My personal favourite is mencolek, Indonesian to describe the trick of tapping, from behind, on the opposite shoulder of another person to confuse them.

And so we come to the opposite. Which is? Well, how about this – “Base Details”. It’s the title of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon but instead of something missing there is something more. What do you think it means?

Base can mean evil, a headquarters (military), to place, the lowest part of anything or to establish. Details can mean irrelevant things, army units, to give information about, to assign someone a task, a feature or features.

You need to read the poem to find out and even then it is up to you.

This device of loading a phrase with several meanings is used in the title: Set at Random. By the way, the verb “to set” has 27 different meanings. Random can mean by chance or it could be short for Random House, the publishing company.

As a final thought, I remember pointing out to a Professor of English that there is no overarching word to describe politicians, attorneys and insurance brokers. She told me there was but I cannot repeat it here in this polite company,

Fair well,

The Great Author.

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