Day 53

5.02: Darkling, is a very good word for describing my morning excursions, an adverb and verb participle which seems to mean “characterised by darkness” or “taking place in the dark,” though no one’s really quite sure.

I like its illusiveness as much as its sound, and its befuddled etymology. Johnson was only able to describe it by reference to a word which – as far as he could tell – didn’t exist. “A participle, it seems from darkle, which yet I have never found).”

His best guess is that it means “being in dark; being without light,” but he cautions that it’s “a word merely poetical.”

The OED’s a little more familiar with darkle, which it thinks post-dates Johnson’s dictionary by almost a century (though the Oxford aparatchiks are notoriously po-faced in considering citations). And it’s equally shy to take a stab at what the word actually means, speculating with glorious cowardice that “Probably some parallelism with sparkling has been supposed.”

Anyway, if I were coming up with a title for this blog knowing what (little) I know now, I’d be sorely tempted to call it “The Darkling Chronicles: A small man, merely poetical.”

Speaking of which, here’s another Johnsonian word that could be usefully applied to me:

da’ndiprat. A little fellow; an urchin: a word sometimes used in fondness, sometimes in contempt.

By George, I’d like to see that darkling dandiprat firked about the costard.

6.48: Another session whips by much without my noticing it or registering any great achievement. In his definition of witticism, Johnson – as her frequently does – cites the Milton-baiting Roger L’Estrange describing a man who sounds much like I feel: “a libertine footling even in his last agonies with a witticism between his teeth, without any regard to sobriety and conscience.” Tomorrow, I hope to be both sober and conscious, but no promises.

~ by David Thorley on March 4, 2010.

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