Vocabulary Rocks! F is for…

Vocabulary Rocks! F is for…

Weird Word - FUSCOUS
Fuscous (FUSS-kuss)

Having a brownish-gray or dusky color.

Here's a good one for Hangman or Scrabble. Fuscous comes from Latin fuscus, meaning "dark, tawny, dusky."


Flea Market

Flea-Market-GraphicThe term flea market is a translation of the French marché aux puces literally “market with fleas” — an open-air market where second-hand goods are sold. Generally, the word flea connoted low-rent or cheap, because such places were often infested with fleas.

There is going on just now near the Barriere de Montreuil, at the extreme east end of Paris a sale of rubbish, familiarly known to its frequenters by the unattractive name of the “Flea Market.”  ~ Belfast News-Letter, July 28, 1891

The term quickly jumped the pond to America. From the Wisconsin Janesville Gazette of November 4, 1891:

Near the Barriere de Montreuil, in Paris, they have sales of odds and ends known as the “flea market.” A woman recently bought a dilapidated old mattress and, cutting it open, found 14,000 francs in gold.

Some suggest that the term is also influenced by the fact that the locations of such markets are not fixed and jump around like fleas. While this may be a characteristic of the markets, it does not appear to be the origin.


Florida is Spanish for “flowering” and the peninsula was so named by Juan Ponce de León on April 2, 1513. He landed in the territory on that day and named it after the Easter season or Pascua Florida, which was being celebrated at the time.

French Kiss

French kiss — an open-mouthed kiss with tongue — dates from a 1918 letter appearing in Private Lindner’s Letters: Censored and Uncensored.

So I have decided to become a linguist. Being able to read French fluently and speak it wretchedly, and to speak German connectively but not to read it at all, I am taking up Luxembourg, which is a wonderful blend of the two, a sort of liaison between tongues. (Not to be confused with French kissing.)

But why French? Well, the French have been associated with sexual practices dating back to the 18th century.

But I am so far from desiring to exhibit such Pictures to the Public, that I would wish to draw a Curtain over those that have lately been set forth in certain French novels.  ~ Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding in 1749.

In this case, Fielding was writing about risqué novels that were literally French. By the mid-19th century, the figurative sense was well established. From Robert Browning’s 1842 Bells and Pomegranates:

Or, my scrofulous French novel,
On grey paper with blunt type!


Fog is one of a multitude of words whose origins are obscure. Earliest references had nothing to do with mist or water. Fog was the name for new grass which grows up in a field after it has been cut for hay, or the long grass which is left standing in the field over winter. Various grasses to this day contain this original meaning within their names, such as Yorkshire Fog. In Scotland and the north fog also mean moss, and hence a marsh or bog with mossy growth. The next step was to create the adjective foggy for places overgrown with long grass or a place that was marshy or boggy. It is unclear how, or when the word foggy evolved to mean “the state of being thick or murky, as of the mist or vapors that arose from such places.” Some speculate it was a reference to the heavy morning dew on long grass, which from a distance can look like a layer of mist, developing into the modern meaning of fog.

Some writers suggest that the Danish word fog, meaning “spray; shower” may be connected, although this is less certain.


fudgeThe oldest sense of fudge is the verb, meaning to cobble together something in a makeshift manner, or to adjust accounts or numbers to make them conform to requirements. It is a variant of the verb to fadge, meaning “to fit; to make suitable” of unknown etymology dating to at least 1578. The form fudge may date to as early as 1674 when it appears in Nathaniel Fairfax’s A Treatise of the Bulk and Selvedge of the World.

Fudge as an interjection meaning “nonsense, or humbug” dates to 1766. It probably comes, in equal parts, from the verb form and from an inarticulate grunt.

The very impolite behaviour of Mr. Burchell, who…at the conclusion of every sentence would cry out Fudge!  ~ The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith, 1766

The name of the candy is a relatively recent variant, only dating to the late 19th century, and comes from the verb, a reference to it being easy to make.

Weird Word - FOOTLE
Footle (FOO-tull)

To talk or act foolishly; to waste time.

Consult several dictionaries and you'll find all kinds of proposed sources for this word, from Latin futuere "to have sex with" to footy, a Northern British dialectal term for "worthless" or "paltry." The Oxford English Dictionary's verdict on this word is simply this: "Of obscure origin."



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