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On The Couch: Catchfarts and profiteers in a nut Shell

Protestors gathered at Central Beach in Plettenberg Bay to protest against seismic exploration by Shell. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Protestors gathered at Central Beach in Plettenberg Bay to protest against seismic exploration by Shell. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 11, 2021


BEATEN and whipped by catchfarts, quockerwodgers and circumbendibusters, I have severe mubble-fubbles, am dumfungled and badly want to latibulate.

I am hingum-tringum and apanthropic.

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I love these old words, uncovered by magnificent lexicologist, author of Word Perfect and word goddess Susie Dent, who also lives on Twitter @susie_dent.

You know many of these people.

A catchfart (17th century) is a follower of the political wind whose actions are guided entirely by the whims and desires of their boss. Quockerwodger is a 19th century word meaning a toy puppet whose strings are pulled entirely by someone else. Circumbendibus (17th century) is an answer or argument so convoluted and evasive it isn’t an answer, the kind of response we get from our leaduhs.

The mubble-fubbles is from the 16th century and means a feeling of despondency or ill humour. Dumfungled (19th century) means used up, worn out and approaching stupefaction, and latibulate (17th century) is to hide in a corner until the situation improves.

Hingum-tringum (19th-century Scots) is feeble, just about hanging together; apanthropy (18th century) is the desire to be left alone.

We need to resuscitate these words, and I’m looking out for Dent’s colourful nouns for wicked, evil, thieving, destructive pond scum. Oh, wait…

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The fuse to my fury is sHell and the scuzzbuckets (happily, a real modern-day word – some colour remains) who have allowed exploitation of our shores to go ahead.

The need for energy is unarguable: one of the funniest memes I’ve seen recently asked whether Eskom was doing anything for Black Friday.

But the need to get our billions back is even more imperative. The stolen billions make me furiouser every time I think of them; imagine how they could have improved everybody’s lives.

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What we do not want are more fossil fuels to add to climate change. I say this as a former climate change sceptic – I wanted to know who the scientists were and who was making the money by facilitating all these Earth-saving plans. My argument back then was kind of made by the introduction of hideous carcinogenic diesel cars – what a wonderful new car market, sold on the fear of global warming, to boost sales figures. Even to lie and cheat on emission tests to do so.

But learning from science and overcoming the cynicism, it’s clear that if humans do not stop the rape and pillage of all land, seas and the creatures who fulfil a vital role in maintaining a healthy global ecosystem, we are doomed.

Apart from the increases in extreme weather, sea levels and temperatures, what on Earth will we do when some long-frozen bacteria or virus is freed from a melted iceberg? That is very worrisome.

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What should be worrying to sHell is a backlash. A Mastercard survey in April showed that 98% of Saffer consumers said they were willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability issues, and spend accordingly.

We know comparatively nothing about the deep ocean and its inhabitants, but some apex predators are prepared to endanger them anyway for profit.

Another newish phrase is cancel culture: time to implement it on money monsters.

That way, we may have respair, (16th century) meaning a breeze of fresh hope and recovery from despair.

  • Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor

The Independent on Saturday