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The Scrivener: Keep It Simple!

Brian Barratt, in lexicographical mood, introduces us to some words we may never never have encountered until now.

When you do crosswords and other word puzzles in the newspaper, there are always words youíve never heard of. Or you might have heard of them but never used them. You find them the next day when the answers are printed. Here are a few examples.

Aryl. Oh, silly me, it isnít a fleshy and usually brightly colored cover of some seeds that develops from the ovule stalk and partially or entirely envelopes the seed. Thatís an aril. No, aryl is something to do with Ďaromaticí, and is used in Chemistry to describe compounds. Thinks: Must drop that into my next chat with the next-door neighbour.

Cleg. It comes from a 600-year-old Norse word kleggi and is another name for a horsefly. The female of the species is known for her fondness of blood-sucking. They could ease the workload of nurses in pathology labs, couldnít they?

Dyne. Doesnít everyone know itís a unit of force that imparts an acceleration of 1 cm/sec/sec (centimetre per second per second) to a mass of one gram? Heavens above! How can we manage without dropping a few into conversation at least once a week?

Iíd like to tell you that itís also the Old English spelling of dine, but I canít. Dine didnít come into English until the 13th century when the French brought some culture to those rough folk in England. Before that, they used to eat, and that word did come from Old English. Thatís why we ordinary people still eat while posh people dine.

Harl. Is this what a dyne does when it stops rushing around? Well, not quite, but youíre getting warm. Itís an old Scottish verb meaning to drag something along.

Henry. No, it isnít one of the kings. Itís a derived unit of SI inductance. Isnít this marvellous stuff for bookworms who hated Science at school? In involves an induced electromotive force of one volt that is produced when the current is varied at the rate of one ampere per second.
The only interesting thing about it is that itís an eponym. Itís named after Joseph Henry (1707Ė1878), a U.S. physicist.

Anyway, next time you ask someone to explain something simply, in words of one or two syllables, reach for your dictionary!

© Copyright 2005, 2007 Brian Barratt


For more of Brian's delectable assemblages of words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

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