Word of the Week


Week seventeen: MOSCHATE (probability 15062), by David Sutton

MOSCHATE means 'having a musky odour'. As an adjective, it takes no -S, but it does take an -L, giving MOSCHATEL, a small plant with pale green flowers giving off a faint scent of musk.

Our language has a really rather poor vocabulary of smell, and MOSCHATE is unusual in denoting an odour that is, to most people, pleasant. The majority of our smell words relate to the unpleasant: OLID, FETID (or FOETID), MEPHITIC, GRAVEOLENT, STENCHFUL, MINGIN, BILGY, FOUSTY, FUSTY, FROWSTY, FUNKY, MUSTY, NOISOME, NIFFY, RANCID and REEKY (or REEKIE). To these I should probably add NIDOROUS, that relates to a strong smell of roasting meat, CEPACEOUS, having a smell of garlic, and GOATY or HIRCINE. Words of olfactory approbation seem limited to FRAGRANT, AROMATIC, FLORAL, MUSKY, SUAVEOLENT and possibly OENANTHIC, 'having or imparting the characteristic odour of wine', and TURBINACIOUS, which Sir Walter Scott used to describe the peaty smell of whiskey, though those with no enthusiasm for wine or whiskey may disagree with this classification and regret that there seems to be no one word dedicated to describing the steaming bouquet of a nice cup of tea.

   













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