Sunday, March 14, 2010

How Deep Was My Dingle

I’m reviving a Back of the Cereal Box tradition that fell by the wayside: the word of the week. It’s my effort to appeal to the segment of my readership who use words. There’s a lot of you, it turns out! And to begin this new round of strange and wonderful words, I’ve chosen the most ridiculous-sounding one I’ve come across lately.
dingle (DING-guhl) — noun: a small, narrow or enclosed, usually wooded valley.
Great one, huh? According to Wiktionary, dingle is the diminutive form of dell — as in, the place where the farmer lives, as opposed to where the cheese stands alone. (That poor cheese.) I’m not familiar enough with antiquated English diminutive suffixes to know how dell might have become dingle, and, in fact, it might not have. The Online Etymology Dictionary makes no mention of it being a diminutive for dell, only that it was first noted to come into dialectical use around 1240 and entered literary use in the sixteenth century. In fact, it doesn’t even define the word as being small but instead as a “deep dell or hollow, usually wooded.” Finally, the 2010 Unabridged Random House dictionary has an entry for dingle that defines it as “a deep, narrow cleft between hills; a shady dell.” This entry, which I found via Dictionary.com, claims dingle is related to the Old English dung, “dungeon” and the Old High German tunc, “cellar.”


And yes, the berries you find growing in the dingle would technically be dingleberries.

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3 comments:

  1. Hence, I suppose, that traditional location of fairy stories, Dingly Dell.

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  2. I am unfamiliar with this place. What stories does it appear in?

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  3. Pretty much anything, especially in pantomimes. It's the kind of place stories get set when the teller can't remember where they're supposed to be.

    It does pop up in the Children's Stories sketch in Monty Python. (http://www.ibras.dk/montypython/episode03.htm#4)

    Possibly the origin of its use like this may be Charles Dickens' "The Pickwick Papers" which features the manor at Dingley Dell.

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