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Mooreeffoc

This word is rare and is almost never used used in its ostensible sense — relating to things suddenly seen in a new and different way — but only as a keyword to initiate discussion. But it has been keeping illustrious company, since its few appearances in print have been in works by G K Chesterton, J R R Tolkien and Charles Dickens.

Dickens invented it, if that’s the right word. He mentions it in a fragment of his abandoned autobiography, when he describes his poverty-stricken youth:

In the door there was an oval glass plate, with COFFEE-ROOM painted on it, addressed towards the street. If I ever find myself in a very different kind of coffee-room now, but where there is such an inscription on glass, and read it backward on the wrong side MOOR-EEFFOC (as I often used to do then, in a dismal reverie,) a shock goes through my blood.

In his biography of Dickens, Chesterton said that it denoted the queerness of things that have become trite, when they are seen suddenly from a new angle. Tolkien read more into it still in his work On Fairy-stories:

The word Mooreeffoc may cause you to realise that England is an utterly alien land, lost either in some remote past age glimpsed by history, or in some strange dim future reached only by a time-machine; to see the amazing oddity and interest of its inhabitants and their customs and feeding-habits.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 20 Sep. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-mor2.htm
Last modified: 20 September 2008.