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January 22, 2011

Got A Budge? How About An Aglet?

I don't know about you, but my life is full of all kinds of, well, stuff. Do you have lots of things you use every day, but you don't know what to...

...call the pesky little things?

In my grammar classes, I define parts of speech. In theory, nouns are the easiest - a person, place or thing. Most of the times the words for any given object are fairly straight-forward; shoe, pencil, car, dog or almost any other person, place or thing. But what about those things we use and we never learn their names?

Here's one example; for those who wear shoes with shoe strings, what's the little tip of each shoestring called?
I've always called it the "little tip" but really, most of the time I don't even think about it. But, if you ever need to know, it's called an "aglet".

Or what about the part of your toothbrush where the bristles are attached?

If you are ever on a game show, and someone asks you this question, you might like to know that it is called a "block head" (the part you hold is called a "block handle").

It might be fun to put together a quiz of everyday un-nameable items - maybe you could even invent some names for odd and interesting things without known names you work with, handle or perhaps even eat.

Here are just a few examples; parts of stairs are called treads, risers, railings, banisters and newel posts. Parts of a paper clip are called legs (the straight segments), bends (the rounded parts).

Here's a website with a good selection of these odd words for the little things without names - http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0769295.html.

Some words are technical, some are based on slang, some are based on the use of the object, some have some historic root or significance. As in every other area of language, words come from almost any source and acquire meaning and credibility with use and widespread acceptance.

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just normal people might find interesting or useful. Let us all know about words that make you crazy, aspects of language and expression you find challenging, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world later this year.

Posted by mmorf at January 22, 2011 10:20 PM

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