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We've seen the word spat, meaning "young, floating oysters, which attach themselves to oyster shells and artificial beds." Of course, a "spat" can also be a minor dispute, and "spat" is the past tense of "to spit".

This week we'll present some further words which have two or more disparate meanings.

flute1. a familiar musical instrument
2. architecture: a long groove as a decorative motif, as on an architectural column (also, a like groove or furrow, as in cloth or on furniture; common on a quiche pan)
3. a tall narrow wineglass
    … for more formal scenes, … a maroon velvet dress with long, fluted sleeves …
    – Shelbyville (Indiana) News, Dec. 31, 2008

    Champagne glasses come in many shapes and sizes: A saucer, called a coupe in France …, disperses bubbles quickly from its shallow bowl. It is generally smaller than a flute, and is ideal for a quick toast. A flute and a trumpet (or pomponne) keep bubbles in the glass longer. As for the legend that the saucer was modeled on the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breasts? Almost certainly false.
    – New York Times, Dec. 24, 2008
Bonus words:
trumpet; saucer; pomponne
(wineglasses) – see quote and illustrations above
 
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... and spat is the jocular singular of spats a kind of pearl-gray gaiter or puttee.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Originally posted by zmježd:
... and spat is the jocular singular of spats a kind of pearl-gray gaiter or puttee.

Why do you call it jocular? Both M-W and Dictionary.com use it in the singular.

Spats are still used, according to Wikipedia, and the Los Angeles Times (LAT) reports (October 14 2007) "the spat's back."
quote:
Their offerings range from low-cut black leather versions to more daring knee-length crocodile spats. “They are an easy fix,” Pels says. “People love the hunt for something new that they can make their own. They look great over a basic flat or sandals or over skinny jeans.”

But just where did spats come from? Call them the leg warmers of the 18th century. The Holly Hobbie shoe covers started as a functional knee-length accessory called a “spatterdash,” used by women, farmers and soldiers to keep out the mud and cold. In the early 1920s, the length of spats shrank as they evolved into a pricey status symbol and a marker of class among well-to-do men of the time. Spats resurfaced in the 1980s, most notably on Michael Jackson in his video for “Smooth Criminal,” where they drew attention to his moon-walk.

With the menswear trend this season, they are looking right again. Depending on how you wear them, they can be dainty, bondage, gladiator or goth. One thing’s for sure: They will get you noticed. And you should probably be prepared for a joke about a monocle.


Don't you just want to rush out and buy some? Or maybe this is your style. You'd look dashing walking down the street in your spats . And you can get them for your kids, too.
 
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Why do you call it jocular?

Because I've never heard anybody speak about a single spat. (Maybe "I lost one of my spats".) And, I didn't look it up. I just assumed one spat would be like one pant or one scissor. Shouldn't the title be rewritten as back of the spat?


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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"Spats are back."

The question is, Why?

"spat is the jocular singular of spats a kind of pearl-gray gaiter or puttee"

According to my MW, there is no definition for "spats." The only def is the singular "spat." I guess you can only wear one, if you like.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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The situation is similar for "shoes", "socks", "gloves", and so on. Their definition will appear in the dictionaries as singular but they are most usually referred to in pairs.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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shoal1. an area of shallow water, or a submerged sandbank visible at low water
2. a large number of fish swimming together (related to "a school of fish")

Etymologically, two separate words. The first sense is often used figuratively; see quotes.
    sense 1, literal: Sailors who have faced the opposing currents, heavy fogs, and dangerous shoals have nicknamed the area "the Graveyard of the Atlantic
    – Peter Greenberg, Don't Go There!: The … Must-Miss Places of the World

    sense 1, figurative: The granting of favorable concessions to dictatorial regimes is a practice hardly limited to the current administration … . But even the best-endowed regimes need help navigating the shoals of Washington, and it is their great fortune that, for the right price, countless lobbyists are willing to steer even the foulest of ships.
    – Ken Silverstein, Harper's Magazine, July, 2007

    sense 2: "Oh, bother these fish!" said Lucy, for a whole shoal of small fat fish, swimming quite close to the surface, had come between here and the Sea People. But though this spoiled her view it led to the most interesting thing of all.
    – C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
 
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Of course, the inimitable Wodehouse had something to say on the subject of spats...http://wodehouse.ru/55.htm


Richard English
 
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Very interesting ... The Russian Wodehouse Society. I wonder what the average Russian makes of Bertie Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I wonder what the average Russian makes of Bertie Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves?

He or she probably thinks that we still live in that glorious timewarp world that was Wodehouse. Were that but true!


Richard English
 
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I don't know if you saw it but when Paul Merton did his recent series on India he also met up with an Indian Wodehouse readers' group.
 
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That's right Bob, I remember! I'd imagine that a lot of Indians do think we still live like that, especially as the Raj only ended 60-odd years ago.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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It is a pity that we can't hold a wordcraft convention somewhere like Blandings Castle.
 
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Actually that suggestion has much merit, the more so since we don't as yet have a venue for Wordcraft 2009. Hall and Woodhouse do have a pub in Hampshire called The Empress of Blandings and the PGW society in the UK http://www.pgwodehousesociety.org.uk/ have many events.


Richard English
 
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shirr
1. to gather (cloth) into decorative rows by parallel stitching
2. to cook (eggs, in their shell or a small dish) by baking until set

Opposites, in the sense that the latter is simplicity, while the former adds ornament to simplicity.
    She looked stunning in a short shirred velvet cocktail dress.
    – Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada

    Shirring sure is sexy. Instead of adding bulk, artfully placed gathers actually hug your figure and add texture to a garment. … "Shirring takes away the simpleness of clothes," he [designer Pierre Garroudi] said. "It gives the impression of draping."
    – New York Daily News, Dec. 28, 2000

    But her favorite way to express their [eggs'] simplicity is to shirr them. It's an old-fashioned technique that essentially means baking an egg. In her version, the eggs in ramekins are simmered in seasoned cream that reduces slightly into a soft sauce. "This is kind of a retro dish you don't see much anymore," she said.
    New York Times, July 5, 2006 (see article for picture, and link to recipe)
 
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gudgeon
1. a certain small freshwater fish (or various similar fishes) often used as bait to catch larger ones
. . .2. slang: one who is easily duped
3.a a pivot or spindle on which something swings or rotates b. the tubular part of a hinge into which a pin (called the pintle) fits (nautical: such a socket for a rudder) c. a pin holding two blocks of stone together¹
    the fish: … the Asian Topmouth Gudgeon is spreading an infectious parasite, directly threatening native fish in the region. … The silver topmouth gudgeon … is one of the most invasive fish in Europe.
    – BBC News, Dec. 1, 2005

    the fool: I hope I am not such a gudgeon as that!
    – Georgette Heyer, The Reluctant Widow

    the fitting: Raging Bull's woes hung from some faulty gudgeon bolts that attach the rudder to the boat.
    – Independent, Jan. 2, 2007
Thought re senses 1 and 2: Many animals are used as symbols of dupes or duping (a silly goose; a lemming; a cat's-paw; a con-man's pigeon; to follow like sheep; to gull). Shakespeare played on gudgeon's fish/dupe meanings in The Merchant of Venice ("But fish not, with this melancholy bait, / For this fool gudgeon, this opinion.").

But it gets interesting when you ask what was the Shakespearean-era connection between the fish and foolishness. In some metaphors the gudgeon is the fool doing the swallowing, who will "swallow anything". In others, the gudgeon is bait being swallowed, and the fool is the one who takes the bait and gets caught ("hook, line and sinker"). Contrast the former metaphor in Barry, Ram-Alley ("Has the gudgeon bit?" "He has been nibbling."), with the latter in Butler, Hudibras ("To swallow gudgeons 'ere they're catched, / And count their chickens 'ere they're hatched.")


¹Question: In sense 3, can gudgeon sometimes mean a pin fitting into a socket, and sometimes mean the socket?. Does the word trunnion also have the same pair of pin/socket meanings? I don't know. Can any reader shed light?

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Today's word can be a commendation or condemnation, or a potation!

smoothie
1.a. a person with polished manners, who acts with deftness, assurance, and easy competence
. .b. a person with an artfully suave, ingratiating manner; esp., a man with that manner toward women
2. a creamy beverage made of fruit blended with juice, milk, or yogurt (implies low-calorie?)

The last sense, though still not in some major dictionaries, is by far the most common.
    The last thing I wanted was my impressionable young nephew under the influence of a media smoothie.
    – Kathy Reichs, Deadly Decisions

    Emily came back from the dining room with her usual lunch: an all-natural fruit smoothie and a small to-go container of iceberg lettuce topped with broccoli and balsamic vinegar. … I was starving.
    – Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada
 
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Another potation today. But the other meaning, though much less common, strikes me as far more interesting, and a vivid metaphor.

sundowner
1. chiefly British: a drink taken at sundown
2. Australian: a vagrant; a tramp
    [T]hey are used to me now and realize I am here to stay and that I am not one of the holiday cottage crew who pile out here in their mammoth cars every Easter and summer to fish by day and play poker and swig sundowners in the evening.
    – Per Petterson (Anne Born, translator), Out Stealing Horses: A Novel

    The uncle, a wild or renegade sundowner, would arrive from Australia once every few years bringing no gifts but his yarns.
    – Thomas Pynchon, V.
The dictionaries have not yet listed this one:
sundowner's syndrome – agitation, pacing, insomnia and confusion, specifically at night. Associated with Stage 2 Alzheimer's disease.
 
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pallet – a portable platform on which goods can be moved, stacked, or stored, especially with the aid of a forklift
pallet – a straw bed or mattress; an inferior bed or sleeping place

Etymologically, these are two separate words, yet are not the meanings somewhat similar? The first comes from a root meaning ""a flat tool" (and it has other, related senses); the second from a root meaning "straw".
    I noticed that some boxes were … were being moved around on pallets by Wal-Mart employees driving special minilift trucks with headphones on. A computer tracks how many pallets each employee is plucking every hour …, and a computerized voice tells each of them whether he is ahead off schedule or behind schedule. You can choose whether you want your computer voice to be a man or a woman …
    – Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

    Our beds were on wooden shelves, built in platforms of three. There were pallets of straw to sleep upon, sour smelling and alive with fleas and lice.
    – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
 
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I first heard the second sense of pallet from this Mississippi John Hurt classic.
 
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Originally posted by neveu:
I first heard the second sense of pallet from this Mississippi John Hurt classic.
Me too, neveu. But I never thought of checking utube. Thank you for a wonderful memory.
 
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Enjoy this about a double meaning. Smile
 
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