The latest book to land on my shelf from the mind of wordsmith Paul Anthony Jones is The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities. Jones tweets as @HaggardHawks, specialising in archaic and bizarre words that are all real but have somehow largely slipped through the net of daily use. Well, no more! Not with Jones keeping an eye out for them.
Inside The Cabinet, Jones has sourced a word for every day of the year, meaning that this literally is the book that keeps on giving. He's even gone so far as to find a reason (however tenuous) as to why each particular word has been assigned to the day he's chosen. Jones says he hopes to give you a "daily shot of vocabulary", which is an intense way of saying he's determined to bring us all up to his speed when it comes to Scrabble. (On which note, I would imagine playing Jones at Scrabble is ill-advised.)
Since today is October 24, I give you (well, Jones gives you) HARDIMENT:
courageousness, audacity; a daring exploit or stunt
Before it came to mean ‘resilient’ or ‘robust’, hardy meant ‘courageous’, and it’s from this original meaning that the word hardiment developed in the early fifteenth century. Originally simply another word for boldness or bravery, by the early 1500s hardiment had come to be used more specifically of a singular act of courage, audacity or heroism, and ultimately a daring stunt or exploit. And as daring exploits go, the one that took place today is up there with the most extraordinary – not least because of the somewhat unlikely character who performed it.
On 24 October 1901, the first person in history went over the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel and survived. That person was sixty-three-year-old music teacher Annie Edson Taylor. Hoping the stunt would bring her fame and fortune, Taylor had an elongated oak and iron barrel especially constructed for her stunt that was lined with mattresses and fitted with a short breathing tube and safety straps to keep her in place. After she had clambered inside, the barrel was sealed, the pressure inside compressed using a bicycle pump and the hole plugged with a cork. It was then set adrift and bobbed its way down the Niagara River and over the Canadian side of the famous Horseshoe Falls. Twenty minutes later, the barrel was pulled from the waters by a rescue boat and Taylor was found alive and uninjured except for a small cut on her head. The stunt earned her the nickname ‘Queen of the Mist’ – but alas, not the fame and fortune she desired. She died in poverty in 1921.