Pardon me for my favourite word

I decided some time ago that “borborygmy” was my favourite word.

I much prefer that spelling, even though “borborygmi” scores a massive 102,000 hits on Google, as opposed to my preferred rendition which is mentioned only 1,380 times. But I put my faith in Ivor Brown‘s “I Give You My Word“, my own first edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1945, which is where I first came across it.


I was reminded of the term yesterday evening as it was the answer to a question in the Christmas Special edition of University Challenge.

It’s a word that very rarely crops up; but when it does it’s difficult to ignore. As Ivor Brown says, “The word is much rarer than the ailment”. It’s as though one lives in a city populated by words – and, every now and again, out of the blue, one bumps into it, like an old friend.

Mr Brown defines the meaning of borborygmy as “a rumbling in the bowels” and, importantly, adds “… and for that it sounds gastrically right”. And in that, for me, is the essence of its unique appeal.

As I sat with an uncomfortably distended midriff late in the afternoon of Christmas Day, it was strangely reassuring to know that my intestinal rumblings were not some alien, subcutaneous harbinger of an imminent explosion but part of a perfectly normal borborygmatous process, so common as to have warranted the creation of the most onomatopœic of nouns.




Filed under Language

2 responses to “Pardon me for my favourite word

  1. Clive Elsbury

    Having just found your blog I am hooked. Great stuff Richard, thank you.


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