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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(adj.) dulled from a poor night’s sleep

A word once in use in several northern British dialects, awvish can variously be used to describe someone generally feeling out of sorts, someone struggling to recover from a poor night’s sleep, or, as C Clough Robinson’s Dialect of Leeds and its Neighbourhood (1862) evocatively described it, “A person feels ‘awvish’ when he has been up all night and finds himself in a third-class waiting room at the railway-station before breakfast next morning. ”

And frankly, who hasn’t been there before?

As is often the case with regionalisms like this, no one is entirely sure where the etymological roots of awvish lie. One suggestion is that it might have emerged from a local corruption of ‘half-ish’, or ‘off-ish’, in the sense of not quite feeling oneself.

But with a handful of dictionaries recording that awvish could also mean ‘dull-witted’ or ‘stupid’, it is possible that it might be descended from auf, a word from English folklore for the monstrous offspring of an elf or goblin. According to legend, these malformed creatures would be secretly swapped with human children and raised as changelings by unsuspecting families—so to be awvish might once have implied being as dull or as senseless as an ‘aufish’ child.

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