Thursday, November 10, 2011


Just a word I heard recently, which got me thinking about it. I know, or think I know, what skulking is, of course. I think of it as sort of lingering around in the shadows in a less than candid or forthright way. I'm not sure if it always has an extra nefarious motive, but I think usually it does.

It's a great word. Where did it come from? I'm going to guess it's an old Anglo-Saxon one.

 Well, it's Middle English out of Scandinavian. It's got relatives in Norway (skulka, to lurk), Sweden (skolka, which seems to focus on doing a bunk, cutting a class, playing truant) and Denmark (skulke, meaning shirk). I don't have a lot more to reveal about the meaning or history of the word, but I did find one cool thing that I did not know.

If you have three or more foxes together, you have a skulk of them.

A skulk of foxes, yes, but not exactly skulking.


  1. Do shirk and skulk come from the same root?

  2. It doesn't seem so, no. The etymologists are a bit tentative, saying only that perhaps it comes from the German schurke, or scoundrel.

  3. I suspected as much. The sh/sk correspondance is well established (schip/ship; I'm guessed that skipper is of Scandinavian origin and that if means "someone who runs a scip (ship)). But one would have to account for the r and l sounds, and I know of know what to do that.

  4. Thanks for skulking around for skulk for us, and thanks for that skulk of adorable foxes.

  5. In Europe it can be very pejorative.

    I once stopped seeing a very rude person who used the expression, probably innocently, as they were not from these parts (there were many other more reasons, not linguistically linked, in case I seem hard).

    Accusing a person of skulking is not an effective way to make friends.

  6. Thanks, Kathleen. I love foxes. I've even met a few

  7. Maria, it's not exactly a compliment here, either, so maybe it's just a difference in degree...

  8. I'm not sure I've ever been accused of skulking, let alone heard it being used verbally. I think if that happened to me I would laugh, at first.

    Also, off-topic, that $15 writing course that I signed up for thanks to you, has been a great motivator. I'm actually writing something that has nothing to do with the assignments per se. The first day's assignment was to describe your own death. This unhinged me. I refused to write about it but I couldn't stop thinking about it as an assignment. And then I started writing about something that I wanted to write about, which I guess, is the aim of the course. So, total success. Or, soon success. I have grand plans for it as a short story. If/when something happens with it, I'll be sure to let ye know.

  9. You know, I was just wondering today if I would hear the result of your enrollment, Sheiler.

    That's fantastic. I have pretty much ignored the course since about day two, but I did get a great start on something that I'm now working on through the Nanowrimo challenge. I hope I'll go back and look at the other twenty-eight or so emails, but you're right, getting one good project out of it is enough.

  10. I had grand intentions for joining in the Nanowrimo challenge but didn't. Blame it on the short story.

    Every time I see the term 'Nanowrimo' I always see, at first, 'Nimby'.

  11. One of my friend's has thought till recently that it was called Nanorhino.This is even after she successfully completed it.

    I think writing the short story is plenty. If you want a reader when you're done I'd be happy to give it a look. My email is right on the profile.