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.
omg Jason yeh he sez av u see about their like tryin to find out wen ppl started usin the word numpty yeh i sez well ur 1 u should kno and he laughed yeh so I’m like wat’s all that about then so he says well it’s awsum reely cos they’re like trackin it down using all this reserch like on the internet and stuff so I’m like ok, what kind of research and he says well there’s quite a few issues around it cos like it’s soooo difficult to find out exackly when it started bein used but I thought I might fone them up and see if I could help so I said wow that would be awesome in fact I’ve already done that he said so I was really stoked cos he’d reached out to them in that way but I’ve always bigged him up and I’m so proud for him when he achieves all these amazing things in the field of grammar and stuff and clearly he’s now in a good space which is exactly wat I always thought right from the getgo though as he says no doubt there will be some issues around doing complex textual research but I wanna give a big shout-out for Jason because whenever he becomes involved in etymology and linguistics and anything language-related I have every confidence that he’ll produce an outstanding piece of scholarship, worthy of the standards of august bodies such as the Oxford English Dictionary, who are undertaking this study, yeh?
OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of the word ‘numpty’?
Filed under Humour, Language