All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling

(This message is brought to you by Frolic, Romp, Frisk, Gambol, Cavort, Caper, & Prance, Ltd.,  purveyors of iambs and orgies.)

Today’s playful Zippy:

(#1) Drying clothes engaged in an orgy of cavorting and gamboling, playfully, sensually sliding against one another: inhale the freshness!

With one satisfying line of enigmatic iambic pentameter:

All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling

Words to live by. If you can only divine their deeper lesson.

Today, cavorting and gamboling. Back on LLog on 3/17/08, “Cavorting and frolicking” during the December holidays:

(#2) Cartoon from 12/19/07

The question is: how do you report occasional sex in the media?  This is where cavort and frolic come in.  They convey both activity and pleasure (unlike, for example, sleep with) and, in combination with with + NP they are infrequent enough that context can probably guide you away from more innocent senses, so that

The boss cavorted/frolicked with the secretary in the main office.

can be taken to convey sexual activity and pleasure.  Then, as so often happens, conveyed meaning gets upgraded to conventional meaning, and cavort and frolic develop subsenses with specifically sexual content.

And now the frolicking, in an ecard:


There’s no end of gay frolicking — daily extravagance, Gay Pride events, camping it up, gay choruses, gatherings with friends, drag shows, gay beaches, gay sports clubs, dance clubs, the White Party in Palm Springs and similar events (the WP is in progress right now), gay cruises and tours, and of course the scenes of gay sexual frolic, like the baths:

(#4) An orgy of cavorting and frolicking at the sauna, men playfuly, sensually sliding against one another: smell the sweat!

As for cavorting and gamboling, there are plenty of cavort and gambol quotations. Two wildly divergent ones:

Our season of frenzied leisure will too shortly end on Labor Day, so hurry out there and have one terrific summer full of languid days and untroubled nights. May you frolic and cavort and gambol and caper in a madcap series of wacky zany antics that are fondly remembered always. All while keeping the sand off of your hot dog.  — comic writer Will Durst on HuffPo on 5/27/11, “Summer: Day One”

In the wilderness, only the most terrible beasts of prey cavort and gambol. Deer and rabbits play no games. ― Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver [AZ: just to note that a number of ungulates are celebrated for cavorting and gamboling: the rambunctiousness of foals has given us the noun horseplay — and in fact the sometimes-playful leaping of goats has given us the noun caper and then the verb]

My earlier posting had notes on cavort and frolic. Now, gambol and its cousin caper. Material from NOAD:

verb gambol: [no object, usually with adverbial] run or jump about playfully: the mare gamboled toward Connie. … ORIGIN early 16th century: alteration of gambade … via French from Italian gambata ‘trip up’, from gamba ‘leg’.

verb caper: [no object, with adverbial of direction] skip or dance about in a lively or playful way: children were capering about the room [verbing of the noun caper]. ORIGIN [of the noun] late 16th century: abbreviation of capriole.

noun capriole: [a] a movement performed in classical riding, in which the horse leaps from the ground and kicks out with its hind legs. [b] a leap or caper in dancing, especially a cabriole. ORIGIN late 16th century: from obsolete French (now cabriole), from Italian capriola ‘leap’, from capriolo ‘roebuck’, from Latin capreolus, diminutive of capercapr- ‘goat’.

noun cabrioleBallet a jump in which one leg is extended into the air forward or backward, the other is brought up to meet it, and the dancer lands on the second foot. ORIGIN French, literally ‘light leap’, from cabrioler (earlier caprioler), from Italian capriolare ‘to leap in the air’(see capriole).

This is where people begin to ask, a tad fretfully, about how the verbs cavort, frolic, gambol, and caper differ from one another in meaning, use, style, connotation, or what have you. Looking the words up in dictionaries, even very good ones, is hopeless: dictionaries aren’t equipped to explain nuances of usage in context, especially when there are quite clearly individual differences in how people think they use these words (just asking people produces a crazy quilt of divergent reports, many of them artefacts of the elicitation). Tracking actual usage by individual speakers in context would be grindingly difficult.

It just might be that these labors would be besde the point. All four verbs are from a fairly elevated and artsy-literary register of English, and with the possible exception of frolic, are very low-frequency items; it’s entirely likely that most people have only a very general notion of what they might mean. So probably the best we can do is describe a few situations in which the words might be discriminable for a fair number of people, and leave things at that. Gambol and caper, for instance, might have more rapid physical movement in them — the scene in #4 is a good depiction of men cavorting (with one another) and frolicking (sexually), but not of gamboling or capering, that sort of thing.


5 Responses to “All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I remember that, back when Moammar Qaddafi (just to pick one spelling out of many) was in power in Libya and the US’s official attitude to him was, shall we say, equivocal, some prominent US politician accused him of “cavorting with dictators”, which brought all kinds of absurd pictures to my mind; but the phrase caught on, and I never saw or heard anyone suggest what was obvious to me, which is that the original speaker had conflated cavort with consort.

    • Gadi Says:

      I remember a Muppet special in which the Muppets were cavorting, though I don’t remember what the nature of the cavorting was. Meanwhile, Fozzie was riding a stick pony while dancing a kind of back-and-forth dance to a song whose lyrics went “Cavort cavort! Cavort cavort!” A human being (John Denver?) asked Fozzie what the Muppets were doing, to which the response was, “Cavorting. Well, cavorting wrong actually.”

      • Gadi Says:

        OK, that scene was nothing like I remembered it. I think I was conflating it with a scene from a John Denver Muppets special in which they sang a song about camaraderie. (I was very young when I saw it, and I associated “camaraderie” with “comrade”. The Soviets, of course, were the US’s main rival, and I was deeply concerned that John Denver and the Muppets were spreading some kind of subversive pro-Soviet message. I had quite the active mind as a child.)

        But I was right about Fozzie, except for the stick pony:

  2. chrishansenhome Says:

    I suppose that in another posting somewhere you’ve covered “Novo Nordisk”, which is a Scandinavian manufacturer of insulin and insulin injection pens (probably among other things). I owe my diabetic control to Novo Nordisk. There has been a bit of upset around Novo Nordisk and Brexit perhaps choking off supplies of insulin to the UK.

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