. Sheep Tales . Tale # 14

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...........Here we tell short sheep stories with a little wit and occasional pearls of wisdom. This area will be changed on a fairly regular basis. The pictures are copyrighted, please do not use them.

..........There is a link at the bottom of the page to go back to the previous tales............This story was written in Apr. 2000

...# 14 Words

Many words that we use today have their beginnings in our common agricultural past.  Many of those words have taken on a totally new meaning from where they started.

This Sheep Tales is about "Etymology", the origin and development of words, and looks at some common words that have their roots in Agriculture and Fiber related activities. A few of the words in the table below are NOT related to Agriculture and Fiber, like the word "Gaffer" that we have all seen in the credits following a Movie.

While I have always understood "Flaxen haired girl", I have often wondered about the phrase "tow head boy" (often of Scandinavian decent). 

Flax is the plant from which we get the  flax fiber that is spun and ends up being woven into linen fabric.

It turns out that "tow" is the rejected fiber that is combed out of flax (and hemp) "to heckle",  by a "hackle" (ever get your "hackles" up when you are angry?). The color of "tow" is a very pale blond.  And even more, a teen age "tow head boy's" pale blonde hair would most likely have been rumpled, uncombed, and disorderly, which also describes a pile of "tow" under the hackle bench.

Some words, like "Ram",  are simple. You can use your automobile to "Ram" into a snow bank. You can use a log as a "Battering Ram", and it is easy to visualize the origins of the words, especially if you have ever really looked at the "Business end" of a Ram.

horns.jpg (43696 bytes)

Watching the joyous frolicking of a young colt, or young goats "bouncing off of walls" gives you the true feeling for the origins of "Kick up your heels".  And of course our rural ancestors understood EXACTLY when a lady described an over-zealous suitor as an "Old GOAT!" (That subject is a little too racy for a family oriented web page).

The words in the following table have been supplied by a daily e-mail that you can sign up for, from The Learning Kingdom ( link is lower on the page). Some of these words have taken some surprising twists and turns.

For example:

The Learning Kingdom's Cool Word of the Day for March 26, 1999
aftermath [n. AF-tur-math]

The aftermath of an event is the time immediately following it, when the direct consequences are still being felt. Usually the word is used in connection with tragic or disastrous events: "In the aftermath of the crash, the police scoured the site looking for evidence."

The first part of the word seems to make sense, since the aftermath comes after the event. But what does it have to do with math?

There's a clue in a much older meaning of the word. An aftermath is a second crop, planted after a previous crop has been grown and harvested in the same year.

Usually the first crop was grass or a similar grazing crop, which had to be mowed down at the end of its growing season. By the 17th century, the Old English aftermaeth (after mowing) began to take on a connotation of "a resulting condition," leading to the modern meaning of the word.

Cool Word of the Day
(Lion Tooth)
07-14- Dandelion
(stray cow)
08-11- Maverick 1998
08-18- Scuttlebutt
(dew of the sea)
08-19- Rosemary
(hooded cloak)
09-08- Chaperon [n.
09-09- Eyrie [n.
(wooden boots)
11-06- Sabotage [v.- n.
12-10- Bombast [n.
KRIS-mus - EKS-mus]
(leading animal)
02-15- bellwether [n. 1999
03-26- aftermath [n. 1999
05-13- shambles [n. 1999
(mixed grain)
05-26- farrago [n. 1999
(very best)
06-04- mohair [n. 1999
06-10- coquetry [n. 1999
07-05- hello [interj.
July 5, 1999
(Praying Manits)
08-11- rhabdomancy [n. 1999
10-11- cattalo [n. 1999
(kneel down)
10-15- fore [interj.- adj.   1999
warp and woof
10-19- warp and woof 1999
(Sun movement)
10-20- deasil [adj. 1999
10-22- gnomon [n. 1999
10-28- egregious [adj.   1999
10-29- gaffer [n.   1999
pass the buck
December 1, 1999
it's a dog's life
(hard work)
02-01- it's a dog's life 2000
(Horseshoe nail)
02-18- cloying [adj. 2000
03-01- tenterhooks [n. 2000
03-17- heckle [v. 2000

Cool Word of the Day web site
Cool word Archive

Cool Facts of the Day
"Bless you!" after we sneeze
01-25- Bless You! 2000
How was food served before plates were invented?
02-14- Before Plates 2000
drinking a toast
08-09- Drinking A 1999
"at sign" (@)?
01-13- -at sign- 2000
Why does a week have seven days?
01-21- Seven Day 2000
The first "punch" cards
03-26- First Punched 1999
How many times do our eyes move in one day?
02-09- Moving Eyes 2000
What kind of eyes does a starfish have?
03-10- Starfish Eyes 2000
What were the first creatures with compound eyes?
02-28- First Compound 2000

Cool Fact of the Day web site
Cool Facts Archive

Sign up for e-mail delivery of "Cool word" and "Cool fact" of the day from the Learning Kingdom http://www.learningkingdom.com/

The Learning Kingdom

You can click on these numbers to continue, or use the pink buttons at the top of the page, or the *Jump links* that are below, to go somewhere else.

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