More Free Rice Words IX
Bill Long 5/17/08
More Four-Letter Words
The parade of short words goes on seemingly unabated but we are getting toward the end. Here are 13 or so words for us today: (1) sego; (2) sika; (3) slub; (4) braw; (5) rove; (6) sunn; (7) toft; (8) trug; (9) skeg; (10) laky; (11) tare; (12) bine; and (13) mort.
1. As if to confirm my basic observation about words--that every word is trivially simple to someone, we begin with sego. The sego lily (Calochortus nuttallii) was named the Utah state flower in 1911, after a canvass of Utah school children by State Senator William N. Williams. This web site actually tells the story of how this lily was eaten by Mormon pioneers when food was terribly scarce during cricket infestations in the late 1840s. I know I will never forget this.
2. A sika is either a rope hanger for suspending baskets or a small red Japanese deer, Sika nippon, native to Japan/China but naturalized elsewhere. Here is a photo of the deer.
3. Slub can mean "thick sludgy mud," and that is the definition I much prefer, but such was not the meaning of freerice.com's slub. It is, in fact, a lump on a thread or yarn contaning thickened parts (slubs) at intervals. But rather than this being unexpected or a sign of inferior yarn, these slubs are often present in fancy yarns. The name, however, sounds a bit incongruous. Perhaps that is why we don't hear many people bragging about their "slubby sweaters.." As with most interesting things in life, there is a web page on slub yarn here.
4. As an adjective, braw means someone who is "finely-dressed" or "showy;" in describing a person it means "worthy, excellent, capital, fine." It is derived from/related to "brave," and perhaps that is the best way to think of the term.
5. Some day I think I will (or someone ought to) put out a dictionary of single-syllable words in English. There would be so many of them, with the same word having meanings that differ dramatically from each other. For example, a rove can be a type of beetle, a scab or scaly crust of a healing wound, a small metal plate or ring on which the point of a nail or rivet is beaten down in the building of ships or boats, a "wandering," or a unite of measure (identical to the arroba). Let's just leave the word here, marveling at how complex a world is really contained in one simple word--sort of like the complexity of the world that is contained in one human cell.
6. One way to make sure that very few poeple know your words is to pick obscure names of even more obscure plants. A sunn is a "branching leguminous shrub, Crotalaria juncea, with narrow leaves and bright yellow flowers." But, alas, it is "widely cultivated" in South Asia. Here is a web site, with pictures, concerning this rapid-growing crop used for fiber production in Indo-Pakistan.
7. I think I remember writing on toft, originally a homestead or house-site. The phrase "toft and croft" denoted the whole holding, consisting of the homestead and attached piece of arable land. Auden cleverly picked up on this phrase in his About House (1966): "A toft-and-croft/ Where I needn't, ever, be at home to/ Those I am not at home with." A croft, predictably, is a piece of enclosed land for cultivation.
8. Trug also has several meanings, even if we are going to ignore one of them (a trollop or trull). It means "a hod for mortar" or "a measure of wheat, as much as was carried in a trough, three trugs making two bushels" (thus 2/3 of a bushel); or "a kind of wooden basket for carrying vegetables." I forget, actually, which of the three definitions was used in freerice.com. You might as well learn them all!
9. A skeg can likewise mean a lot of things, from a plum to a "species of bearded oat, of inferior quality," but the freerice.com site picked up the meaning of "surfboard fin." It was first used this way in T. Master's 1962 Surfing Made Easy and now has entered into surfer lore.
10. Something laky is "of or pertaining to lake" or "of the color of lake." Well, you might say, 'what is that color?' It is "spec. the color of the blood, when the red corpuscles are acted upon by some solvent." I didn't know until right now that since 1616 we have had this meaning of lake: "A pigment of reddish hue, originally obtained from lac and now from cochineal.." Lac, if you wanted to know, is a "dark-red resinous incrustation produced on certain trees..." Learn lots new every day.
11. When we think of tare, we think of the parable of the wheat and the tares, but the meaning that freerice.com wanted us to adopt was the second one: "The weight of the wrapping, receptable, or conveyance containing goods, which is deducted from the gross in order to ascertain the net weight." Thus, one has the "tare weight." I never knew this.
12. There is only one entry for bine; must be some kind of mistake... It is "a flexible shoot of any shrub" or "the flexible stem of a climbing plant." We have, from 1880: "A trailing bine of honeysuckle."
13. There are six definitions of mort or, rather, six separate entries in the OED. One is "a great quantity or number;" one is "lard" or "pig's grease." It can also be a wax candle, death or slaughter or, our definition, "the note sounded on a horn at the death of a deer." Hence, it is a trumpet signal (I think this was the definition). Enough for one day!