There’s a word for that


By Sue Curtis



My lifelong fascination with American English and vocabulary was front and center in my life this week. My husband and I fell into a laughing fit over a slip of the tongue we heard. It wasn’t all that funny, it just hit us at the right time.

We were with friends, talking about some work they were having done on their furnace ducts. One of us referred to the heating and plumbing company they were using as “pleating and humming.”

And the rest of the evening was giggles history.

The next day I was still smiling about it and began to wonder, is there a word that we use when referring to a slip of the tongue? There must be, of course, there’s a word for everything.

In fact, I looked it up, and indeed, slips such as that are called “spoonerisms.” They are called that because they are named after a clergyman, William Archibald Spooner. Apparently the good reverend made his own share of slips, including called the Lord a “shoving leopard” instead of a “loving shepherd.”

Yep, there’s a word for everything.

If you’ll recall, a while ago, I wrote about song lyrics that people sing incorrectly. The name for that is a mondegreen. This is because the earliest one of note was from a poem in which the line “laid him on the green” was often misconstrued as “Lady Mondegreen.”

I am consistently astonished that we have words everyday things. Of course we have a name for everything, but often we don’t learn those names. For example, if you’ve ever been around kids (or were a kid yourself once), you know that it doesn’t take long for those little plastic ends on shoelaces to get lost and your laces start to fray, requiring double and triple knots. Those little devils are called aglets. Did you ever once in your life hear anyone say, “oh shoot, my aglet is missing”? No of course not! We say, “hey, my shoelaces are fraying!”

In the days before mechanical pencils, we all used the gold wooden pencils — they were, and are, still awesome in my opinion. Ticonderoga is the best! In between the pencil and the eraser is a little metal band that holds the eraser to the pencil – and provides a place to chew when taking tests. That little metal band is called a ferrule.

Speaking of little bands, the little vertical groove between your upper lip and your nose is called a philtrum. For males, that space separates your right mustache from your left mustache!

To me, one of the hardest parts of cleaning the house is the windows. I wash inside, and outside, then inside again and yet there’s always a streak or dirty spot between the two windows. Do you know the name for that space? It’s called interfenestration — though I usually call it something else!

Do you know a word for a common thing that you find funny? Email me at suecurtis9@gmail.com. I’ll answer, unless I’m outside enjoying the petrichor!

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By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.