The Worthless Word of the Day
earlier this week was cumber-ground
. I can't find a permanent link, but the definition was "a person or thing that uselessly cumbers the ground; a useless or unprofitable occupant of a position," and the citations included:
- John Bunyan, The Holy War (1682): "Thou hast been a cumber-ground long already, and wilt thou continue so still?"
- John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1684): "It hath been a cumber-ground these three years; cut it down."
- John Clare, Rural Evening: "Now at the parish cottage wall'd with dirt, / Where all the cumber-grounds of life resort."
Clare might have remembered the word from Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress
, which book pleased him "mightily" according to Jonathan Bate's biography of Clare (p. 28). I don't know who coined cumber-ground
or when it first appeared, but I'd guess the inspiration was the question in the parable of the barren fig tree at Luke 13.7 (King James Version):
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὸν ἀμπελουργόν, Ἰδοὺ τρία ἔτη ἀφ’ οὗ ἔρχομαι ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν τῇ συκῇ ταύτῃ καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκω. ἔκκοψον [οὖν] αὐτήν· ἱνατί καὶ τὴν γῆν καταργεῖ;
A Homeric equivalent of "cumber-ground" might be the phrase ἄχθος ἀρούρης
(burden on the earth), which appears once each in the Iliad
(18.104, ἐτώσιον ἄχθος ἀρούρης
, worthless burden on the earth) and the Odyssey
(20.379, αὔτως ἄχθος ἀρούρης
, mere burden on the earth).