December 20, 2021

Illustration by Seth

In October, McGill-Queen’s University Press published The Adventurer’s Glossary by HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, in collaboration with the philosopher Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth. The following excerpt from the book was first published by BOING BOING.


Here are five sample entries from the glossary’s “K” section:

Shortly after WWI, the German slang term kaput, which means “done for, destroyed, rendered useless,” was popularized in English usage. Like several other adventure terms in this glossary, this one was inspired by a popular game. When playing the French two-player card game piquet, in the unlikely event that one loses all twelve tricks, one’s opponent can score a game-ending forty points. This trickless state of affairs is known as being capot.

The illusion, not to mention the upkeep of the illusion, that professional wrestling is not staged is known as kayfabe. The invented word, which is often said to have originated in travelling carnivals, may be derived from a distorted Pig Latin pronunciation of fake. When a wrestler is said to break kayfabe, it means that he or she is acting out of character.

This term, supposedly meaning “faithful friend,” was introduced in 1933 on The Lone Ranger radio show; it was a catchphrase of Tonto’s, the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick. The show’s director appropriated the term from a Michigan boy’s camp. The camp, meanwhile, had appropriated the term from Ernest Thompson Seton, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America; he claimed, though this no longer seems plausible, that it meant “scout runner.”

In WWII-era military argot, the phrase Kentucky windage — the allowance made for the effect of wind upon the accuracy of a rifle shot — acknowledged the uncanny ability of Bluegrass State backwoodsmen to allow for crosswinds when adjusting their aim. Fun fact: The WWI sharpshooter Alvin York hailed from the border of Kentucky and Tennessee.

A mixer is a troublemaker, someone who stirs things up; to mix it up is to fight, in nineteenth-century slang, while a mix or mix-up is a fight or brawl. A king mixer, then, is a prankster who’s turned troublemaking into something resembling an art form. The British slang term was memorably employed by Paul McCartney in the 1964 musical comedy A Hard Day’s Night.

Looking for a gift for a word nerd and/or lover of adventure? Your quest ends here!


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