The obscure word of the week is cuckooning

This week’s obscure English word is cuckooning.

It was coined by Lady Cynthia Asquith (1887-1960) to describe her lifestyle during the First World War. Her husband, Herbert ‘Beb’ Asquith, was serving in France; she was left to bring up their two young sons. Although she was daughter of Hugo Charteris, the 11th Earl of Wemyss – which gave her the title – neither she nor Beb had much money. As a result, she rented out the town-house she owned, for income, and instead wafted about her friends, staying with them for long periods and enjoying the London high-life of the day with friends such as D. H Lawrence, who later based his character Lady Connie Chatterley on Cynthia.

Cynthia Asquith in 1923. Via Wikipedia.

Towards the end of the war Cynthia Asquith became secretary to J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, and she later became a prominent writer herself. She called her lifestyle of the First World War period ‘cuckooning’. And we may suppose it means the act of being a cuckoo – of descending upon another’s nest and relying on their good nature. But there is also the implicit sense of being cocooned – and understandably – from the war.

Your challenge: write a sentence or two in the comments, using this word.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019


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