This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Spot the frippet: balloon.

A sight of a hot-air balloon is surely one of those things which make everyone happier.

But smaller balloons are also a cause for joy and a sign of celebration - and that's what we have here now, because today The Word Den is one whole year old.


It's been great fun and I've enjoyed almost every minute of it, especially welcoming visitors from all round the world. I've also learned a simply huge amount.

The first balloon was probably made by Zhuge Liang in China in about 220 - 280 AD (unless it was made by the Nazca in Peru to help them with drawing their huge earth creatures).

Zhuge used his balloons for signalling, but he wasn't fool enough to go up in one. That was left to the Montgolfier brothers in France in 1783.

Small balloons are generally made of latex, nowadays, but before that they were made of animal bladders. A blown-up pig's bladder on a stick is still often carried by one member of a band of morris dancers (he's called the fool) which he uses to hit the other dancers.

Well, there's no accounting, is there.

California is the only place I know about to have a Balloon Law, which is designed to protect wildlife and power lines.
That means, presumably, that Californians can't have balloon races as we do in England, where you let a helium balloon go and the person whose balloon goes the furthest wins the prize.

As if that's not enough to make balloons a very good thing, heart conditions - including the Duke of Edinburgh's recent illness - are sometimes sorted out with balloons, in these cases very small ones, to open up blocked arteries.

Spot the frippet: balloon. This word is basically the same word as ball. It's come to English through the Italian dialect word ballone, from balla, which is from a German-type word to do with blowing or swelling.


  1. May I be the first person to wish WORD DEN a very happy birthday and many happy returns. I, too, have learned tons and tons. May all your ballooons fly high and bright.

  2. Happy birthday, Word Den, for much enjoyable word-discovering!

  3. Thank you, thank you, Adele and Penny!

    Isn't it great to live one's life in such a fascinating language!