Catawampous

catawampous

Catwampous is a hysterical word. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) first places it in an 1840 printing of the Spirit of the Times, which was a New York publication. However, lexicographers guess that the word came about as a British lampoon of the way Americans spoke. It has two alternative spellings: ‘cattywampus’ and ‘catawampus,’ which is chiefly American.

There’s something poetic about Americans taking a word that the British used to make fun of them and spelling it differently.

In the OED, the catawampus (with the American spelling) became a fierce imaginary animal, like a crocodile that could fly. If my imagination could magnify the no-see-ums in Florida, they would look like catawampuses.

noseeum2

American dictionaries define the word as askew, awry. Catawampus is messed up. With an O and a British accent it becomes fierce. I recommend it as an intensifier.

Intensifier. a word, especially an adverb, or other linguistic element that indicates, and usually increases, the degree of emphasis or force to be given to the element it modifies, as very or somewhat; intensive adverb.

However, in this case, I still feel it understates how horrible those tiny invisible bugs in Florida are.

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8 thoughts on “Catawampous

  1. WOW! In Bavaria there is an animal created by phantasy that’s called “Wolpertinger” a mixture of wolf and whatever you prefer. I’ve been looking for an english equivalent for years: Now I have it. Thank you

    Like

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