A well-wisher at work presented us with a box of chocolates just before Christmas – to wit, the Mint Connoisseur Collection from House of Dorchester. These are pretty high-end chocs. And yet I feel repelled by the language used to describe them.

One mint is ‘finished with a strickle of white chocolate’; another is ‘finished with a natural green coloured chocolate strickle’. I’d argue for the hyphenation of ‘green coloured’ or even the omission of ‘coloured’ altogether (Alan Hansen, take note), but my real beef is with ‘strickle’. I can see what’s happened. Some chocolate marketing bod has decided, quite wrongly, that the words already provided by the English language will simply not suffice. What the squiggly bit on top of the chocolate is, he reasons, is a sort of cross between a trickle and a stripe. A portmanteau word is clearly called for. Having vetoed ‘tripe’, he settles on ‘strickle’. And there the word now sits, adorning many thousands of boxes of chocolates.

I’m not against the evolution of language. Those French tosseurs who try and invoke the law to stop their mother tongue from being besmirched, I think they’re boum out of order. I like new words. Tweeple, webinar, laters, cromulent, paedogeddon. Every word has to be invented at some point. Dickens himself came up with ‘boredom’ and ‘dustbin’. The problem is, strickle already is a word — a word that, unless I’m very much mistaken, most of us use every day. OED defines it as:

a. A straight piece of wood with which surplus grain is struck off level with the rim of the measure. Sometimes applied to the amount so measured.
b. Applied to various instruments used for similar purposes in casting or moulding
2. A tool with which a reaper whets or sharpens his scythe. Also a mechanical grinder

v. trans.
To strike off with a strickle (the superfluous sand) in moulding; to shape (a core) or form (a mould) by means of a strickle.

It’s certainly a word that must pop up regularly in societies where grain and casting/moulding still feature heavily. It doesn’t take a genius to foresee the problems the House of Dorchester’s mindbogglingly careless use of language must inevitably create. Yevgeny turns up at his farm or his iron foundry after Christmas, asks ‘Hyend me thyet strieckel,’ and receives a chocolate in return. He can’t fulfil the daily grain quota, his family can only afford one potato a day (plus the chocolate), the Russian economy collapses, and China takes over the world. Thanks a lot, Dorchester.

Trickle is a lovely word. It sounds like what it is, flowing water, a babbling brook. It needs no addendum. If a new word is really needed to describe a stripe atop a chocolate, I would suggest squizzle (squirt/drizzle).

But the chocolates were very nice. Merry Christmas.


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5 Responses to “Strickly”

  1. Gino Says:

    I love new words, snuk is one of my favourites I am trying to introduce thru a nice simple spelling like the American plow but as yet I seem to be the only one using it.

  2. Gareth Says:

    I’ll try to employ thru where possible, Gino. Is there a reason why you use ‘snuk’ instead of ‘snuck’? I see the latter spelling quite often, though ‘sneaked’ is still probably more common in this country.

  3. mikealx Says:

    Just be glad it wasn’t a “strigil” of white chocolate. Especially if there were any suspiciously clean-looking Greco-Romans in the area.

  4. Gareth Says:

    I made a point of checking whether ‘strickle’ has any etymological relation to ‘strigil’ – it doesn’t, happily.

  5. Cross Eyed Pianist Says:

    I too love discovering new words – or lesser-known/used vocabulary – but I also detest the mis-use of words, or unnecessarily purple prose.

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