Almost Nonsense Word of the Week: Cloy

The concept of nonsense words in reading instruction is to see if a student is properly decoding words via syllables. The flawed concept is that many of the so-called nonsense words are actually words. Today’s almost nonsense word is “cloy”. The grapheme <oy> spells the phoneme /ɔɪ/. An educator may “make up” the word <cloy> thinking that it is a nonsense word to “test” a child in their decoding ability, when in reality <cloy> is a word in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “to surfeit with an excess usually of something originally pleasing”. The word <cloying> is an adjective. Yes, the suffix <-ing> can be adjectival. The crying baby was sad. The <crying> describes the baby, where as <was> is the verb. An example: The woman’s cloying perfume hung in the air like a cloud. Upon research of this word, I found there is a perfume called “Cloy”.

The etymology of <cloy> is Middle English cloyen, which meant to hinder movement. So someone who  over eats and can barely move from the gluttony may be described as cloying. Looking farther back into it’s history, this word goes back to Old French relating to “fasten with a nail”, such as to shoe a horse. Going even further back it is connected to Latin’s clavus “a nail”. Latin’s clavus is the root for slot, clove, and glaive. A clove grows in the shape of a nail. A glaive is a spear-like weapon on a long pole. It often had a small hook on the reverse side (similar to a nail). Slot is related to this root as a slot was used to fasten (bolt or bar) a door shut.

So, the next time nonsense words come up, it would be an interesting study to see if they are actually in the dictionary as “real” words. I will leave you with the ability to consider the futility of nonsense words. In general the idea of reading is to understand the meaning behind what is written. Nonsense words don’t do that, because they are “nonsense” and not intended to make any sense. Enjoy your almost nonsense word of the day!



Etymonline cloying entry

Merriam-Websters Word of the Day: Cloying

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