Posted by: ktzefr | April 3, 2018

What’s in a Word?

One of my favorite coffee shops has a slip of paper with a new word and its definition taped to the counter every day.  Each time I stop by for coffee I make a point of checking out the new word.  Most of the time I have no clue what it means.  Where do they get these words?  How are they chosen?  Someday I’ll ask.  I get excited each time.  Yippee, I’ve learned a new word.  Sometimes I discuss the word’s meaning with the cashier or the barista or someone waiting in line for their joe.  Small talk.  Something besides the weather.

However, it occurred to me today that, considering all of the times I’ve gone in and out of that coffee shop over the years, I cannot — at this moment — recall a single new word I learned! 

I don’t have a clue.

Did you know the word “clue” originally meant a ball of thread?  This is why one is said to “unravel” the clues of a mystery.


One week from today, snow is predicted.  There’s a little flake beside the day on my cellphone.  In fact, the weather report for the week shows great diversity in the weather, something different happening every single day — rain, lightning, sunshine, wind, cloudy, partly cloudy with some sun, and snow — in that order.  I have come to pay little attention to the weather forecasts.  

Eskimos have more than twenty words to describe snow.  If it does snow next Monday or any other day before next winter, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to come up with more than twenty words to describe it!  And they won’t be nice.  

Do Eskimos really rub noses?  I Googled and they do, but they also kiss.  Speaking of kissing…did you know that what is called a “French kiss” in the US and England is known as an “English kiss” in France?  That kinda ruins the whole mystique, doesn’t it?


In the vast majority of the world’s languages, the word for “mother” begins with the letter M.  Examples:  mother, mom, mama, madre, mati, mere, mutter, mana, ma, mater, madar, maire…the list goes on and on.


Fuzzy, the squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

As of late I’ve had to “paint” the birdfeeder pole with vaseline to keep the squirrels from climbing.  I’ve been using an old paintbrush and a jar of petroleum jelly.  Sometimes the squirrels give up; sometimes they keep trying and sliding until they have rubbed off all the vaseline.    

I learned recently that paint brushes,those with soft bristles, are often called camel-hair brushes.  They are NOT made from camel hair.  More often than not they are made from “other natural hairs,” which usually means squirrel.  No lie.  But what brush manufacturer is ever going to list “squirrel hair” in the description?

I do not tell the squirrels that the brush I’m using to grease the pole to keep them from getting thistle was made from the hairs of their ancestors.

What about those really expensive brushes labeled “superfine camel hair” that artists use?  Yep, superfine squirrel hair.  It occurred to me that many a “nude” painted by famous artists have come to life on canvas via equal parts talent, passion, and squirrel hair.  

By the way, as far as words go, “nude” and “naked” are not the same.  Naked implies unprotected; nude means unclothed.  Famous artists do not paint portraits of naked people; they are nudes.

Tell that to the squirrels.






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