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January 2023


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“horridge” – Family Talk and Slang Usage

This essay may seem to be a bit of a useless piece of writing … but interesting nonetheless. 

The other day I visited the family of my sister in law.  While chatting with each other, suddenly the younger one of her two girls, three-year-old Zarlee, stormed into the lounge room and into my arms.
Well, as a side issue:  I don’t really like kids, as much as I don’t really like dogs, but for some strange reason both seem to love me.  So Zarlee, whom, of course, I also love dearly, was racing into my arms, with her high-pitched three-year voice crying her typical “Geeeeeeerhaaaaard”, which probably could be heard out on the street.  And, cuddling into my arms, she suddenly boxed me with her little fist, saying repeatedly:  “You are horridge … really horridge …”

Now, me being a foreigner in this English speaking country and not really used to three year old girlie talk, I was a bit at a loss … “horridge” – that sounded a bit like “porridge”, something I certainly abhor … Looking at my sister-in-law, she grinned as if to ask me: “Hey, you ‘Academic English student’, what may be the meaning of that word … ?”, and said to me:  “Well, she’s been saying this word since yesterday all over again, in many different circumstances.  I haven’t got a clue, what it may mean.”  I promised to ask my ESL teachers at TAFE —– but without much success.

So I started a Google search and – this is where it became interesting – of course, first to no (real) prevail.  Interestingly enough, “Horridge” seems to be a fairly popular name, at least in the Australian scientific community (roughly 345 entries).  But in web-wide Google search (“app. 140.000 in the web”), I discovered one interesting piece as entry #28:  In July 21, 2006 Patrick Awexome added a definition for this word in the California based “Urban Dictionary“:

Horrible/rancid porridge
and a good random thing to yell out.
This porridge has become horridge

Apparently, this is the only definition for Zarlee’s word.  Even online dictionaries like “A Dictionary of Slang” (UK) or the “Double-Tongued Dictionary” (New York, USA) don’t carry this term.  The only other similar term I found, and maybe closest in spelling and meaning to Zarlee’s “horridge”, was horrigible submitted by Yvonne to the Pseudodictionary (“words … that regular … people like you use everyday”) (; the term):

Utterly horrible and incorrigible.
e.g., Ignore him, he’s horrigible.

The Urban Dictionary webpage header carries as a self-description: “Urban Dictionary is a slang dictionary with your definitions. Define your world.”  This reminded me of John Rice’s comment on that issue1 ]:  “Words are created in the family.”  Interestingly enough, words like Zarlee’s “horridge” may find more acceptance today and use in future times than in the past:  With on-line lexicons, like those listed above, more slang words may find their way into advanced language usage, as before.  The “Wiki” concept of dictionaries (“wiktionary”) offers increasingly better chances to stay up-do-date, because “everyone” can enter and define a phrase dear to him or her.  But, “Oral language is ephemeral. Millions of new oral coinages appear every year, nearly all quickly die, and of the relative few that don’t, very few have currency for more than a couple of years, and even fewer make it to paper”, says Grant Barrett, editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary (the article) in his web log “Language Evolution in the Digital Age” (19. June 2006).  In spite all their shortcomings, according to Barret in his lengthy web log, Wiktionaries demonstrate “that people like their language and love to play with it” (op cit).
It would be, therefore, an interesting question to ask Zarlee’s mother, a trained Kindergarten teacher, how kids like her daughter invent words like “horridge” and what it may mean for them.  But this, probably, would make up for another, more serious writing.


During a visit of friends in our house I asked one of them for this term, without first telling the story.  Interestingly enough, our friend spontaneously associated Zarlee’s “horridge” with destruction and dislocation, being used in 12th century United Kingdom.  She also linked it with the name of a satire and a general … of course, all information I couldn’t verify – in spite of the Internet.  An etymological study of this term and it’s roots would certainly be interesting.

(All links per 21/02/07. — First written for a TAFE ESL course in February 2007)



  1. during a conversation at TAFE SA [top]

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