I don’t know when i first came across the word inkhorn, meaning a small container for ink – possibly it was originally an actual horn, with a stopper, to contain ink… that’s how I imagine it anyway!

I found out the other day that inkhorn also means something else; it’s a foreign word used in English but often considered pretentious and there has been in the past a backlash against them. I wonder if now that the world is getting smaller and we can communicate to easily with others from every country everywhere whether inkhorns are more accepted. In some cases, i guess, there just isn’t another word which would do for whatever it is. Ballet, café, croissant, rendezvous… all inkhorns but what English words could replace them? Dance doesn’t really convey everything that ballet is, a coffee shop or coffee house I guess could be used instead of café but of course a cafe isn’t merely for coffee, a crescent shaped pastry, a meeting… Yes these words could be replaced…

However, think of shampoo, bungalow, curry, chocolate… all foreign words… but maybe they’r not quite inkhorns…

Paul Kingsnorth wrote ‘Wake’, a novel set at the time of the Norman Conquest of Britain; it’s written in a language which eschews words of Latin and French origin and is a sort of Old English brought up to date so it can be understood by Kingsnorth’s readers. I haven’t yet finished it as it does need some concentration, although if you give yourself a good session to read it, then you get into it and it’s not so challenging..

Here is an interesting little article on inkhorns:


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