I was faffing about in the curtilage feeling a bit chuffed that I had just come up with such a great idea for dinner: I would spatchcock a chook.
Say what? If I could get away with it, this is how I would speak. But adding just one more eccentricity to my already long list might prove to be the tipping point for those I hold near and dear. So I refrain….for the most part.
I have a mad passion for the words and phrases lost to time or used only by those “other” English-speakers…you know who I mean, the original ones across the pond and their cousins in Australia and New Zealand. Here a sampling of just a few deliciously obscure terms:
“The pink limit!” A friend and I were “simul-reading” a D. E. Stevenson novel and both of us, avid word-lovers, pounced on this obsolete British phrase eagerly. She researched it and found it to mean the equivalent of something like “the last straw.” “What do you mean, you’re out of gin? That is just the pink limit!”
“Dash it” or “Dash it to bits”. Thanks this time to one of my favorite authors, P. G. Wodehouse. How I adore him. That will be a subject of another post….I digress….his wonderful Bertie uses “Dash it” with charming regularity. It conveys just the perfect dollop of civilized annoyance. “Why didn’t I buy those awesome iced tea glasses? Dash it!!”
Closely related is “dashed.” It’s a dashed lovely thing and although they have nearly identical meanings, it’s infinitely more posh than “wicked.”
Curtilage Alexander McCall Smith, another great fan of obscure English, wrote a charming Facebook post a few years ago wherein he extolled the virtues of the almost extinct “curtilage.” The curtilage (which autocorrect annoyingly insists on converting to “cartilage,) is the private garden area, usually walled or fenced in, just outside the manse. The curtilage is where one would have a reasonable expectation of privacy from all those pesky estate employees. I expect to hear it used someday on “Downton Abbey.”
“Faffing about”. Introduced to me by a friend from New Zealand, it means “dilly-dallying”, procrastinating, or idly wasting time. I rather like the sound of “happily faffing about the house”, don’t you? As a matter of fact, I see nothing wrong with developing “faffing about” into an art form.
“Chuffed” Well, this one is fun. It means pleased with oneself. I’m feeling rather chuffed you’ve read this far!
“Fantoosh” Another Alexander McCall Smith favorite, this old Scottish word means garish, ostentatious, over-dressed. “His second wife dresses rather fantoosh, wouldn’t you say?”
“Snaffled” Take something quickly and without permission – slightly less than outright robbery….one would “snaffle” a swig of port from the decanter when Jeeves isn’t looking.
And “Spatchcock.” This word I heard for the first time in the illustrious Wall St. Journal of all places. How obscure it is, I have no idea but it has a certain ring to it. It is a specific method of flattening a chicken (or chook as the Aussies say.) Makes for more even cooking. We tried it recently:
Take your preferably already postmortem chicken and place on clean dishtowel, backbone up, breasts down.
With a pair of kitchen shears (or whatever scissors you can find) locate the backbone and start cutting away until the bird is officially spineless.
Now for the fun part! Flip her over and with your palm, give a good whack or two until you feel it flatten out as much as reasonable.
Et Voila! A spatchcocked chicken:
Now give it a good rub with whatever olive oil-based marinade you like, generously salt and pepper, and place on a medium-hot grill until the bird is done to your liking.
Back to words for a second. It is a favorite thing of mine when odd little words or expressions are shared in a relationship – that secret language that sort of binds you to each other.
What favorite funny words or expressions do you use? Surely I can’t be alone in this quirk, can I?
Chuffed that you visited,