Words: sward and karosses


Found at Autolycus, this “poem” about the English language, English is Tough Stuff, one of many, but I find them such fun.
And there I found my first word for today

Sward Not only did I have no idea how it is pronounced, but I didn’t know what it meant and when I looked it up, I had trouble believing I had never met this seemingly quite common word.
definr said

sward, n : surface layer of ground containing a matt of grass and grass roots [syn: turf, sod, greensward]

pronounced like a sword in which you WOULD pronounce the W

My second word was provided by Doris Lessing whose autobiography, Under My Skin, I am currently reading. As she spent her childhood first in Persia and later in Southern Rhodesia, there are lots of words to be learnt. As it’s quite a fascinating book, I usually just read on for pleasure, but was stopped at one point by the word karosses, which definitely looked like it was some sort of garment, in the context, made of some animal hide, but I really didn’t see which part of clothing it could be.
The sentence went:

My shoes –veldschoen– smelled of hide, like karosses. But I refused ever to have a kaross on my bed, for a kaross was too close to the beast it came from (…)

Wikipedia says:

A Kaross is a cloak made of sheepskin, or the hide of other animals, with the hair left on. It is properly confined to the coat of skin without sleeves and used to be worn by the Hottentots and Bushmen of South Africa. These karosses became replaced by a blanket. (…)

I also found a definition that described a kaross as a mantle or sleeveless jacket made of the skins of animals with the hair on, used by the Hottentots and other natives
So if I get this right, it something that can be either some sort of a bedcover or blanket or some sort of vest.

What an interesting word!

I’ll close this with the last four lines of English is Tough Stuff

Finally, which rhymes with enough —

Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?

Hiccough has the sound of cup.

My advice is to give up!!!

I certainly never will!


11 thoughts on “Words: sward and karosses

  1. Those are two words I’d never heard of. Language is so fascinating. I heard a group of Polish people speaking the other day in their native tongue and it reminded me of my dad and grandmother talking, but I still think French is a bit easier. Maybe because many American words came from the French to begin with and we still use so many.
    Interesting stuff.

  2. Like Kenju I knew sward but not karosses. That little rhyme reminded me of one I read ages ago which showed how difficult it is to learn to pronounce English. Unfortunately I can’t remember the first line so couldn’t find it. It compared words like moth and mother, both and bother, not to mention all the problems encountered with ‘ough’ words.

  3. Enough = tough

    And what happened to Wednesday this week.. or am I a ‘twirly’ – applied to those who go to get on a bus with a pass before 9.30am in th UK.

  4. @ mrs k, with a little patience, Wednesday Window does show up.
    @ sablonneuse, when I was still teaching, we always had several of these being circulated in the teachers’ lists. 🙂

  5. Don’t you love English words. They are so much fun. In regard to those that end in -ough and some other odd pronunciations, here’s a little riddle from my childhood:

    How do you pronounce ghoti?

    This answer is, fish…

    Gh as in enough,
    o as in women,
    ti as in nation


  6. “I knew sward! I knew sward! I knew sward!” said she, totally unable to twist her French tongue, and pronounce it properly.
    THE CHAOS is the most unromantic, unpoetic, unhospitable, uncharming, unkind, ungenerous (and what else?) poem I have ever read…The English language (and the English people) should be ashamed of themselves!
    Though I must admit, I had a lot of fun (and a certain motherly pride) in hearing my British son recite it, with only three stumbles, at 11.30 p.m. last night. I’m so grateful he didn’t learn his language from the mother who, after 50 years, still says DE for THE.

  7. I have never heard or seen the word karosses, so that’s a new one!

    Sward isn’t a common word, but as it is mostly used to describe agricultural land, it gets used around here from time to time.

    “Good sward for pheasants.”

  8. I probably read too much but I knew or was at least familiar with these words. And the “ough” thing is something I’ve used for years to prove that the English language doesn’t make sense and very difficult to learn. When I began studying French and Spanish I was stunned and amazed to discover that they were mostly consistent in pronunciation and spelling. I feel sorry for our clients at the office — learning English as fast as most Americans would like them to isn’t going to happen.

  9. J’aime bien ta chasee aux mots nouveaux, Claude! Il me semble que je suis la seule Ă  Ă©crire en français; j’aimerais ĂŞtre capable de retenir ces mots.

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