Gl- Words

Well, gosh.  I observed but not out loud that “gl-” does have a lot to do with visual imagery – glimpse, glimmer, glitter.

This week among other things I am upgrading several concordance entries from “brief” (tagged just so) to having some kind of commentary.  I ran up against “gloat”, looked it up a bit pro forma, and lo and behold, “gloat” does not mean what I thought it meant.  It is a visual imagery word.

Today I am doing a mini-lesson on the “gl-” words!  In a couple of hours, you should be able to follow this “gl-” tag to see what we can see!  Please note that I explored these words this morning in reverse alphabetical order, so to follow my stream of thought you should begin with “glum” and work your way to “glade” in the tag list.  “Glimpse”, “glimmer”, and “gleam” I had done way back in May, not thinking of this little exploration.

Glum

“Glum” the adjective – to look sullen and frowning if referring a person, or to look gloomy, dark, and dismal if a thing – is apparently related to the verbs “glum” and “gloom”.  Now, I had thought that “glum” was an affect – a feeling.  Nope.  It’s an appearance, something we can see.  Related to a Low German word meaning “muddy”.

Very well, “glum” the obsolete yet occasionally dialectical verb means to look sullen.  To show a frown or scowl.  Nothing about underlying causes.  Etymologically, it also comes from the verb “gloom”.

To “gloom” is to look sullen, dismal dejected – the weather can gloom as well as persons by looking dark.  Also one can gloom something by making it dark or melancholy (but isn’t melancholy on the inside, not an appearance?)

Etymologically, our word comes through Middle German words for muddiness, fraudlent conduct(how interesting), and fogginess.  OED is quite clear that it’s a different root from “gloaming” and other twilight-related words.

  • 02.036 There they all sat glum
  • 07.142 and don’t look so glum.
  • 11.020 and glummer
  • 11.020 and glummer they became.
  • 13.059 said Bilbo glumly.

“gloom, v.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glum, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glum, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

Glower

“Glower” in its Scottish regional meaning means simply to stare intently, sometimes with an air of surprise.  In its second meaning, and this is how I’ve always understood it, to glower is to stare angrily (or if one is the weather, to have an appearance of darkness or gloominess).

The etymology of the word is obscure, bless it, and may have to do with the second meaning of the verb “glow” which is to stare.  Or it could be from “glore” which is to stare fixedly in its second meaning (first meaning, to shine.  Now a whole new exploration of words that means both to emit light and to perceive it presents itself).  “Glore” is related to “glare” and probably is related to the Old Icelandic “glóra” – to gleam and glare as the eyes of a cat!  Aha! and cat eyes seem to give light as they reflect it as well as to see all.  We may have it!

If the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset – my goodness.  Those mountains are west of them, the Misty Mountains which they have just left behind.  Are they glowing, limned with sunset light?  Are they dark?  Are they anthropomorphically expressing anger, as Caradhras will in a later novel?  All these things together?

“Glower” has just been upgraded to a gem word!

  • 07.132 and the peaks of the mountains glowered against the sunset

“glore, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glower, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

Gloat

“Gloat” does not mean anything like what I thought it meant.  “Gloat” is to gaze – askance, furtively, amourously, admiringly, in its obscure meanings, which predate the current one.  Here we are now:

To gaze with intense or passionate satisfaction (usually implying a lustful, avaricious or malignant pleasure). Now almost exclusively to gloat on, upon, or over : to feast one’s eyes upon, to contemplate, think of, or dwell upon with fierce or unholy joy.

The first use of it is given from Clarissa, which perfectly illustrates the creepiness factor.  This third sense has something to do in its origins with “glut”.  It comes from German, Swedish, and Old Norse words for “glare”, “peep”, and – get this – “grin”.

Now, I have always thought that “gloat” is like “boast” – something one does with words, not eyes, but definitely related to avariciousness and thus to pride.  Tolkien used it in this way in the quotation under consideration:

Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!’ he gloated. ‘My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!’

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us something to hold on to:

  to look or glance admiringly or amorously… (2) to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight.
and M-W presents as the primary, easy-to-grok definition:
to show in an improper or selfish way that you are happy with your own success or another person’s failure
Now that includes verbal action such as boasting, which is clearly what Smaug does.
  • 12.072 he gloated.

Great elephants, but I love this project!

“gloat.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 July 2015.

“gloat, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

Gloaming

This word for twilight, or less commonly dawnlight, is related to “glow” and to the second word “gloom” – “heat of the sun”, from which we get “gloom-stove”, a drying oven for gunpowder.  This “gloom” is completely separate from the “gloom” which has to do with staring and the origins of “glum“.  Possibly from Old English “glóm”, but not for sure.

  • 08.131 to the gloaming
  • 19.003 On hearth in the gloaming

“gloaming, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“gloom, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

Glitter

Roots of this word have to do straightforwardly with shining and may derive from a pre-Germanic root ghlid- which relates to the Greek word for luxury!  The OED entry for this word – to shine brightly but flickeringly – includes this example from Samuel Johnson.

1784   Johnson Let. 2 Oct. (1994) IV. 413   All is not gold that glitters, as we have been often told.

Ahem.  Yes, we have often been told, Mr. Johnson.  And that wise saying may have morphed over time.  But that’s a different story.

  • 08.059 in rockets of glittering sparks
  • 13.042 Their glittering mail they had covered again
  • 14.023 his belly glittered white with sparkling fires of gems

“glitter, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

Glint

This noun for gleam or shine has a Scottish meaning of glance.  Here’s that crossover again between the light and the view of the light – Aha!  the verb “glint” – to shine with a flashing light – has a Scottish meaning of quick movement, specifically including a quick movement of the eyes, therefore to peep.

The word comes from “glent”, a lovely obscure word for quick motion, related to glide, slide and here’s a clue!

The original sense is probably that of quick motion, the application to light being secondary;

Quick motion of light.  There we go.

  • 06.067 Also he could see the glint of the moon
  • 08.071 and white gems glinted on their collars
  • 13.009 there was a pale white glint,
  • 13.018 they caught a glint
  • 13.019 shot with glints of the rainbow.
  • 16.036 in a net woven of the glint of frosty stars.

“glint, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.

“glint, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.