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The Independent Online
MRS MARGARET Withers has written from Launceston, with an intriguing observation:

"Apologising for leading someone into the mire in a wood in Devon yesterday, I recalled recent features regarding how many words people who live in the Arctic have for `snow', and I asked him how many words he thought the English might have for such muddy places. `More than a hundred in Devon alone' he replied."

Well such an assertion had to be put to the test, so I loaded my trusty CD-Rom of the Oxford English Dictionary and asked it for all the words including "mud" in their definition. The results were astounding. There is clabber (or clauber), cloam, cokyr-mete, fanc, groot, grummel, gutter, limus, lutulence, moil, slabber, sleck, leech, slike, slip, slobber, slubber, slutch and sposh, all of which just mean mud (though some are stickier than others, and others are softer than some). If you are looking for a muddy adjective, you may choose from clabbery, coenose, fenny, glaury, grooty, grouty, gumly, guttery, miry, mudly, pudgyroily, slaky, slobby, slumpy, slutchy, suddy or troublous, among others.

In all there are 111 words with "muddy" in their definitions, and 313 whose definitions include the word "mud".

Here is a short glossary of muddy gems in our language:

antigropelos: coverings to protect legs against wet mud

bedrabble: make wet and dirty with mud and rain

belag: clog with wet mud

belute: cover with mud

besmottered: spattered as with mud

blash: very liquid mud (or poor tea)

bymodered: smeared with mud

clart: sticky dirt or mud

clatty: of mud; mud-built

cod: mud from the bottom of a river

daggle: clog with wet mud

dash: bespatter with mud (hence a car's dash-board)

drabble: make wet and dirty by contact with mud

draggle-tail: skirts that drag through mud

dub: a muddy pool or puddle

fango: therapeutic mud from the thermal springs at Battaglia

flop: a mass of thin mud

gamash: leggings worn to protect against mud

gumbo: mud of the prairies

harl: an implement for raking mud

horse: a mud or sand bank

immud: bury in mud

limicolous: living in mud

limose: pertaining to the nature of mud

lutarious: inhabiting mud

moya: volcanic mud

muddish: somewhat muddy

oblimation: covering with mud

pelotherapy: applying mud to the body therapeutically

plonge: cleanse by stirring up mud so that water flow will carry it away

poach: plod through mud

poss: splash in mud

pudder: dabble in mud

pug: trample into a muddy mess

putty: sticky mud at the bottom of water

riley: thick turbid mud

slobland: muddy ground, especially on the seashore

slumgullion: muddy deposit in a mining sluice

soss: splash in mud

stabble: liquid mud caused by continuous traffic

stable: stick fast in mud

stog: to be stuck in mud

studdle: stir up water to make muddy

wasel: trample in mud

So the next time you are waseling on slobland and someone bedrabbles your gamash with clart, don't just stare with dismay at your besmottered antigropelos, but relish instead the linguistic diversity with which you may describe your dilemma.

And if anyone else ever tries to confound you with allegations about Eskimo words for snow, just look him straight in the eye and say: "They have nothing to match the 313 English words for mud, you know."

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