Thursday, October 14, 2010


The -kin diminutive
Last night en famille we were talking about words and I mentioned that -kin indicated a dimunitive. Nod was surprised to hear it. I was convinced of it but could not come up with good examples. (I was sure 'pumpkin' was not an example of this usage. Squashes do not remind me of little pumps.) But think of nursery rhyme language: thumbkin, your little thumb. I joked with the girls that I could call them Katykin and Lexikin. "Because we're tiny!" shouted Katy. I shouted back, "I didn't mean to make you tiny!" They really are the petite kiddos but full of energy, resilience and smarts. Katy is at least showing some growth since last fall. She's still wearing some of her 6x pants but I am glad to see that they are highwaters on her now. Size 7 fits best for most pants. She turns nine next month.

But back to wordynerdiness. The OED entry taught me this morning that adding -kin was popular to create a diminutive nickname especially for men's names around 1200 to 1400. It also explains the origin of the nickname "Jack" for the given name John. (Jan-kin is nickname that evolved toward Jack.) Oh and it explains another old weird English name to me as well: Dickon, which must be Dick-kin, and stow those wang jokes. The OED tells us that there are other words from the Dutch or of "obscure origin" for which the 'kin does not indicate a diminutive: bodkin, firkin, merkin (hee), jerkin, bumpkin, etc. Pumpkin turns out to be an easier-to-say-for-English-speakers variant on a French name for a large squash: pompion.

Yogurt zealot
After trying to treat my skin with topical yogurt I have decided that it's not a cure all. It did calm down my irritated skin with one application. And I will keep it in mind for that sort of use. But daily application didn't seem to improve anything. So I do *not* have to don a homespun robe and travel the land teaching all and sundry about the healing powers of yogurt. That's good, I really wasn't looking forward to doing it. In conclusion, here's a short short story by John Scalzi about yogurt taking over the Earth.


amenaneri said...


I love diminutives. I love nicknames, I love having more fodder for silly nicknames. A professor of mine once said (after overhearing me calling a friend by a ridiculously overwrought nickname), "Nicknames are a function of affection...the more involved the nickname, the more you love someone."

I've sure got a lot of nicknames for you, if you know what I mean ;-)

Nimble said...

AM: Aw, I'm so lucky to be peppered with your nickname shotgun! Dang, I wish I could take you out for a stroll.

I remember a Hogan's Heroes episode in which the sexy Russian spy kept calling Hogan 'boychik'. I thought it was very cunning back then. And now that I look at it, sort of trans-y.

I should have included the '-kins' construction in this post too. Babykins, smoochykins, etc.

Bee said...

How could you leave out MUNCHKIN?
Surely THE diminutive, as Wizard of Oz lovers and Dunkin Donuts both know.

I love nicknames, too.
I think that one of the reasons that I adore the Mitford sisters is their penchant for nicknaming and word gaming.