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Monday, November 30, 2009

Lexicongraphy

I am off the bar stool again, a rocket-brain, totally warped, because, since it is Online Monday or Black Cyberday, or whatever, I was online searching for a lamp shade for the lamp next to my bed. The shade on there now is solid black, depressing, light blocking, dust revealing, just a bad shade. I figured I would contribute to the economic data files by buying something online, a double for the economy, a sale and shipping, all in one. But I got hung up in lamp parts, and tumbled on from there, unable to stop.

The worst thing that can happen to me and leads to a gross waste of time (what I can’t put off) is to discover a strange looking word. I eternally had a struggle explaining to former students just how much I love words. Of course most students simply smiled or yawned and thought, ‘He’s weird anyway. So what if he is having an affair with words?” But really, I wish I had discovered lamp parts to include on my vocabulary lists. How many times have you needed a part to a lamp and been reduced to approaching some sales clerk asking for a do-hickey? Goodness knows even using that term put you close in the catalog of lamp parts because hickey is a real part and no doubt the etymology for that good old slang term “do-hickey.” Look in any online dictionary, and the first definition you will see for hickey has to do with all those suck marks we tried to brush out, ice off, and hide with turtle necks. A hickey is really a double ring with inside threads through which electrical connections are made on lamps. There are malleable hickeys, “u” hickeys, utility switch hickeys, and stamped steel hickeys. Pretty cool but don’t go to WalMart and ask for a hickey; after all, you have seen those pictures. Another lamp part that fits the tongue nicely is the nipple. Oops, no I won’t do that to you, just teasing, really. Of course, nipples are lamp parts , but the part which really rolls around the mouth is the bobesche, a cupped ring placed under a socket for ornamentation but which originally caught drippings from candles. That is a most cool word. Go ahead and go into one of your hardware stores and ask for a dozen bobesches, be pretty darn interesting to see what you might get. For sure you know that lamps have bases, bodies, and bulbs. But, did you know lamps have harps? They are the light-bulb shaped, heavy-wire appliances that fit into a socket to provide support for a shade. And a spider is a do-hickey that screws above a harp to support the weight of a glass shade. Lamps take toggles and taps, finials and flanges, risers and rosettes. And balls too, brass, marble, and glass. And you can get, at your local lamp store, a palnut, a washer thing-a-ma-jiggie that is used as a separator between ornamental parts. Who would have known?

While looking up parts for lamps, my word addiction in full flower, I just went wild looking for parts of, well, stuff. So here’s your challenge of the week: go forth (do NOT multiply) and find an entasis, a crocket (not a Davy-kind), a quoin, a clerestory, and a tympanum. You’ll have fun and for a while your mind just might move off Obama, the stock market, the Chinese, and the price of gas. At least I hope it does.

2 comments:

beej0127 said...

Thanks, Greg, I needed a good laugh and change of pace. Life has become much too serious lately. I continually find myself in awe of the English language!

Anonymous said...

And to think, all this time I thought that a bobesche was a loose fitting shroud that my ancestors in Eastern Europe used to clothe themselves with! How enlightening!

I should probably give up on my endless quest to learn obscure curse words and pick up some technical manuals.........

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