This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 18 June 2012

Spot the frippet: maroon.


Can you hear the darkness, and the slightly bitter edge?

Like cherries.

cherries 3

Maroon isn't a word you hear very often nowadays, but that hasn't stopped it being around. If you can't find any deeply coloured cherries then there are flowers that are maroon: just look at the falls on this iris.

Or, if you're lucky enough to be in Latvia then there's bound to be maroon all over the place. This is the Latvian national flag:

Latvia flag

It's a fine flag, though to an English speaker it sounds slightly unfortunate because in English maroon also means a warning or distress signal.

I do hope you don't see one of those today.

One of the people who might send up a maroon is someone who is, well, marooned. That is, someone who's been abandoned somewhere (usually an island) without the means to get home. This meaning has given us maroon meaning a descendant of runaway slaves living in the Caribbean or Guyana. The Jamaican Maroons, for example, still have their own territory and culture and rule themselves to a large extent.

In America a maroon can mean any person who is marooned, and in the southern USA it can also mean to hang around doing nothing very much.

Though I'm sure it's a hive of activity, there's a Maroon Town in Sierra Leone; and, lastly, the very beautiful Mount Maroon:

[Mount Maroon: one of five peaks in the park]

 in Queensland.

Spot the frippet: something maroon. The word meaning someone cut-off comes from the Spanish cimarrĂ³n, wild, literally living on peaks, from the Spanish cima, summit.

The colour is from the French marron, which, oddly, means chestnut. The distress-firework comes from this word, too, though I can't find anyone to explain just how.

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