This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 5 March 2012

Spot the frippet: barnacle.

Can there be any stronger proof of the power of love than that the great poet John Keats should fall for a lady, who was staying close by, who went by the unfortunate name of Fanny Brawne?

Well, possibly only that the great writer James Joyce fell for someone called Nora Barnacle.

We tend to feel, wrongly, that barnacles haven't got much to do with romance, but they're still extraordinary creatures. They look like little limpets, but they're not molluscs at all, but tiny crab-like things.

These are barnacle shells, but I'm afraid the barnacles themselves have tucked themselves up inside them and drawn their doors closed.

When a barnacle grows up, the first thing it does is to glue its forehead to a bit of rock, and from then on it lies on its back inside its shell and uses its legs to grope for food.

Although barnacles don't have a heart (their sinuses pump their blood round their bodies) they regularly get romantic, and here we're back to John Keats, because as a barnacle is stuck to a rock for the whole of its life it can only get romantic with someone living very close.

Do pause here to look at the person next to you and be grateful you're not a barnacle...

Okay. Now the thing about getting romantic after you've cemented your head to a rock is that it's very difficult each other. Barnacles get round this problem by putting out enormously long appendages, perhaps forty times as long as they are, to make a connection.

The mind boggles, quite frankly.

Barnacles aren't easy to spot, I know, unless you're at the seaside, but any clingy person who won't let you alone can be called a barnacle, and one of those shouldn't be hard to spot at all.

A goose barnacle lives on submerged wood, and was once supposed to be the egg of the barnacle goose. I don't know if anyone really believed this, but it proved jolly useful to Roman Catholics because it meant that barnacle geese were classed officially as fish and so could be eaten during Lent.

Spot the frippet: barnacle. This word comes from the Late Latin word bernicla, but sadly no one knows what bernicla meant.

1 comment:

  1. I can't remember when I've laughed so much. Brilliant stuff.