Monday, November 22, 2010

Introducing Etymonday

Gretchen Rubin advises that a blogger should post every day if they want to . . . I'm not sure what the result is supposed to be--I only remember the injunction to post every day. So here's my first attempt at a weekly feature: Etymonday.

This feature will be my attempt to locate a good old word that you might want to use to add some old-world-type archaic class and charm to your referee narrating--and read to you from a dictionary about it. For the first word I decided to pick up a copy of The White Company by A.C. Doyle--a book that dumbfounded me 10 years ago with the amount of words I had never seen that were in it--and read until I encountered a word I (still) didn't know.

(You can go here (Project Gutenberg) and try this experiment yourself. And go here (Golden Age Comic Book Stories)to see some stunning N.C. Wyeth illustrations for it.) Like this:

It turns out that I had to skip several place names--I may not be familiar with the names, but I probably won't find them in a desk dictionary either.

Anyway, the first word of the Etymonday series: saltern. Here's the sentence it appears in, if you'd like a taste of some stately prose: From the vineyard and the vinepress, from the bouvary or ox-farm, from the marl-pits and salterns, even from the distant ironworks of Sowley and the outlying grange of St. Leonard's, they had all turned their steps homeward. (I probably should have looked up 'marl-pits' and 'bouvary' as well.)

And here is what the New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd Ed.--my new 3rd Ed. is at home) has to say: "a set of pools in which seawater is left to evaporate to make salt," and it come from Old English sealtærn 'salt building' the original use denoting a saltworks.

Saltworks? That's rad. Do you suppose goblins like salt? What if some sort of negotiation/mass slaughter had to be worked out with the goblin saltworks so that the peaceful/genocidal villagers could deal with an infestation of Slugmen From Out Of Space? (The slugmen have slime-rays.)

Here's a blog ( that I found when I Googled 'slugmen from out of space.'

And here's an image from something called, which might just be NSFW and maybe even morally repugnant, but, you know slugmen.

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