August 25, 2008

Jocund Hut

Filed under: China,language,teaching — Kim @ 3:54 pm

My neighbourhood in downtown Dalian has a new little teashop that has jauntily named itself “Jocund Hut”. That’s a pretty funky name and I guess the owner got that obscure and odd adjective from an electronic dictionary, and I also wonder how many native speakers – even – know what it means.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually utter the word, but I know it well coz Wordsworth used it in “Daffodils”, one of the most famous poems in the English language. When speaking of the gleeful dancing daffydillies he emoted

A poet could not but be gay, / In such a jocund company

which couples, so to speak, an archaic usage of “gay” with our equally archaic “word for today.”

And I also half-remembered Conrad using it in “Heart of Darkness” for a grimly humoured description of some skulls on poles, but when I checked the quote I found

a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.

so it was jocose, not jocund. And who the hell uses “jocose” these days? it must be even more obscure than “jocund.” I guess that’s why it’s not a “Jocose Hut” round the corner from where I live.

And then I also remembered that English was Conrad’s third language and that he was wont to use it somewhat eccentrically from time to time; a habit that led to literary critic FR Leavis’ catty comment that “Conrad’s sea smells of Roget’s Thesaurus”.

Anyways, maybe Chinese and Japanese electronic dictionaries are going to resurrect a few long dormant and/or incredibly obscure words and blazon them on the shopfronts and T-shirts of the Pacific rim. And then we English teachers over here will have to find out what they mean.

Have a jocund day!



  1. you forgot the use in “Romeo and Juliet” when “jocund day stands tiptoe” in that happy old favourite, the lark-or-nightingale dialogue; which gave rise to several music-hall acts of Scottish comedy duos calling themselves Jock and Day.

    Comment by brother Samuel — August 25, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  2. Maybe it is for Da Vinci’s “La Joconde”.

    Comment by ZhongTang — August 25, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  3. Yo Bro!

    I didn’t forget that quote, I just thought it a little less well known than the daffydilly usage and so “consciously omitted” it, lest the heavy hand of reference weigh down my musings. Though if you look again at my valediction you’ll see I did slyly allude to it. Cheeky , eh? What? What! What?

    I had a look for your “several music-hall acts” from Scotland but all I could find was this charmingly academic correspondence…

    From: Emma French Date: Thursday, 11 Feb 1999 02:08:11 PST
    Subject: Jock and Day

    I have a question for list members that one of my doctoral supervisors, Geoff Ridden asked me to pose. He wishes to know where the reference to a double act called “Jock and Day” occurs, “jocund day” of course being a phrase from Romeo & Juliet. He thinks it comes from a novel or play and suspects it may be Tom Stoppard but can anyone cite the precise source? Many thanks, Emma French

    From: Jean Peterson
    Date: Thursday, 11 Feb 1999 11:44:09 -0500 (EST)
    Subject: 10.0238 Q: Jock and Day
    Comment: Re: SHK 10.0238 Q: Jock and Day

    It’s from “Look Back in Anger”, quintessential angry-young-man play from the 1950’s by (I believe?) John Osborne. In Act 2, anti-hero Jimmy Porter and his buddy Cliff put on a kind of music-hall vaudeville parody act-“Jock and Day” is the name of their act (“I’m Jock, he’s Day”). In that guise they give voice to the rousing musical number, “Don’t Be Afraid to Sleep With Your Sweetheart, Just Because She’s Better Than You.”

    Jean Peterson
    Bucknell University

    Comment by Kim — August 27, 2008 @ 6:28 am

  4. […] public links >> teaching Jocund Hut Saved by tadeck on Sun 28-9-2008 Multitasking Saved by ygolota on Wed 24-9-2008 Dr. Lou’s […]

    Pingback by Recent Links Tagged With "teaching" - JabberTags — September 30, 2008 @ 1:50 am

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