Idioticon — it’s not what you think!

Today’s word: idioticon

When I saw today’s word in the list, I took it for granted that it had something to do with emoticons — at least at first glance.  People used to rant and rave about those ubiquitous 🙂 and ;D and XO things back in the day.

But then I got to the definition:  it’s actually a dictionary of idiom from a particular district or region.  In other words, y’all and pop (instead of soda) and “warsh” for wash and all that kind of thing.

Unlike the words for “H”, idioticon comes from Greek: idiotikon.  Interestingly enough, the blog post at World Wide Words says that while idiot can in fact mean stupid, it also can mean “private”.  In addition, it can also mean something barbarous. This meaning got built into the concept behind the original idioticons, which were glossaries of “Minority languages” or dialects.  WWW sites:

In the eighteenth century German scholars used it for a dictionary of a dialect or a minority language — the view that they were barbarous tongues spoken only by the unschooled was still very powerful. Early examples included the Idioticon Frisicum, the Idioticon Hamburgense and the Idioticon Prussicum. Later it became a standard German word, spelled Idiotikon.

They don’t seem to exist formally at the present, although you probably could find something meant less scholarly than those original idioticons.  There’s an Urban Dictionary online which does something similar for street slang.  It’s handy when you don’t want to track down the closest 14-year-old to ask what “technocamping” means.





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