W is for Wacky: The Wacky Races!

Wacky: funny or amusing in a slightly odd or peculiar way.

Back to the etymology dictionary!

“crazy, eccentric,” 1935, variant of whacky (n.) “fool,” late 1800s British slang, probably ultimately from whack: “a blow, stroke,” from the notion of being whacked on the head one too many times.

Wacky can only mean one thing to me. Wacky Races! If you’ve never heard of them, where have you been (or where were you in the late 60s to 80s?). Wacky Races was a Hanna Barbera cartoon that Boomerang describes as:

A never-ending, gag heavy, race around the globe. The world’s wackiest racers constantly compete to win and be crowned “World’s Wackiest Racer”.

This Dan Dare site has a great list of all the cars and their crews. The Boomerang Wacky Races page has info about the series too. It started in 1968 but ceased production in 1970, due to protests from parents about violence in children’s TV (according to IMDb).

Penelope Pitstop from Wacky RacesDespite this, I remember seeing it again and again (and I wasn’t born until after it stopped!). There were also two spin-offs started in 1969: Penelope Pitstop and the Ant Hill Mob were in their own series called The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley had a spin-off series called Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (it’s this series that the famous Stop The Pigeon song comes from – it was its theme song and apparently its working title too). Both series ran for two seasons.

Dick Dastardly and Muttley from Wacky Races

Dastardly and Muttley were my favourites:

“Sneaking along last is that Mean Machine with those double dealing do-badders Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley”.

For me they were the funniest, most lovable ‘do-badders’ ever!

Q is for Quaint:

Quaint: ‘having an old-fashioned attractiveness or charm; oddly picturesque.’

Yep, that’s what I envisage quaint to mean in a nutshell.

But I’ve always been interested in the history of words (etymology), and when I was visiting other A to Z bloggers yesterday, two were blogging about etymology. So when I fed in ‘quaint’ to google today, this entry from the online etymology dictionary caught my eye.

c.1200, cointe, “cunning, ingenious; proud,” from Old French cointe “knowledgeable, well-informed; clever; arrogant, proud; elegant, gracious,” from Latin cognitus “known, approved,” past participle of cognoscere “get or come to know well” (see cognizance). Modern spelling is from early 14c. 

Later in English, “elaborate, skillfully made” (c.1300); “strange and clever” (mid-14c.). Sense of “old-fashioned but charming” is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c.1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense).

So what things do you call ‘quaint’ today? For me I suppose it would be village tea-rooms, thatched cottages, wild flower gardens with winding stone paths, wishing wells… that kind of thing.

If we were back in the 13th century, what would I use quaint for? A saddle, perhaps, or a sword. In the 14th? Perhaps The Forme of Cury, a cookbook:

The Forme of Cury is the first English text to mention olive oil, cloves, mace and gourds in relation to British food. Most of the recipes contain what were then luxurious and valuable spices: caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and pepper. There are also recipes for cooking strange and exotic animals, such as whales, cranes, curlews, herons, seals and porpoises.

Apparently one of the recipes is a kind of porpoise haggis… nice. Now that’s put me right off my cream tea in the little cottage garden, attached to the crumbling but still beautiful thatched tea-room, with roses (naturally) climbing around the door…