Strange Language, English


Although I already have a semi-serious blog, I wanted to have a page where I could share English weird words, idioms, and phrases that I have been collecting all my life. Some of these are things we say everyday without giving it a second thought, such as “be that as it may.” Others are words that originally were separated, perhaps then hyphenated, but are now smooshed together, such as “heretofore.” Still others are old words that you don’t hear anymore, like “jalopy.” There are even others where we thought we had it right, but were actually wrong, like the plural of “octopus” is actually “octopuses” not “octopi.”

Hopefully these musings will bring a smile to your face or at least give you ammunition for a trivia contest.




Smooshed Words

Heretofore without the wherewithal, I nevertheless persisted, notwithstanding whosoever or whatsoever happenstance, whereupon hereafter I have it.

As you may be able to determine by the opening sentence, today’s English language fun topic is “Smooshed Words.” Just as the Earth’s continents slide around and collide, words often smash into each other and stick together. I thought about calling this “Smashwords” but realized that that word is already taken by the e-book distribution platform. So, “smooshed” it is.

Before researching the history of the smooshed words, I had thought that they were recent developments from people who were either tired of hyphenating a series of words or had not bothered with spaces when writing. Well, surprise! Most of these words are from the 13th and 14th centuries!

First a caveat: I usually require at least 3 sources confirming an idea or definition before taking it as “truth,” but I liked the way the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( presented the definition and the source of these words, so I took their word (excuse the pun) for it in most cases. If I happened to use another source, I note it with the definition. So, let’s see what I said in that sentence above.

heretofore – 13th century – up to this time, before now

wherewithal – resources, money – Pronoun

Wherewithal has been with us in one form or another since the 16th century. It comes from “where” and “withal” (meaning “with”), and it has been used as a conjunction meaning “with or by means of which” and as a pronoun meaning “that with or by which.” These days, however, it is almost always used as a noun referring to the means or resources one has at one’s disposal – especially financial resources, that is, money. First Known Use of wherewithal:

  • Noun: 1809
  • Conjunction: 1534
  • Pronoun: 1583

nevertheless – 14th century – in spite of that, however

notwithstanding – despite, however, although – First Known Use of notwithstanding:

  • Preposition: 14th century
  • Adverb: 15th century
  • Conjunction: 15th century
  • History and Etymology for notwithstanding – Preposition, Adverb, and Conjunction: Middle English notwithstonding, from not + withstonding, present participle of withstonden to withstand

whosoever vs. whoever– source: – Whosoever is a pronoun meaning whichever person; whoever. It is rather Formal: Whosoever wants it should apply within last date. “whoever” is a pronoun in objective case. It is an emphatic form of who. This is also Formal.

whatsoever – 13th century – whatever, or at all

[My note: this is different from the slightly irreverent “Whatever!” exclamation]

happenstance – coincidence – First Known Use of happenstance: 1857

  • History and Etymology for happenstance: happen + circumstance

whereupon – 14th century – closely following after

hereafter – after this – First Known Use of hereafter:

  • Adverb: before the 12th century
  • Noun: 1546
  • Adjective: 1591

So, the first sentence without smooshed words reads:

Before now without money, in spite of which I persisted, despite whichever person or whatever coincidence, closely following after this I have money.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip through English language history.



P.S. Don’t ask me to explain the nuances between a preposition or a conjunction or what a “pronoun in objective case” means. It’s been way too long since English 101, and I don’t have the interest in researching it.