This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 17 September 2012

Spot the frippet: carousel.

As Monday comes round again, so does a carousel.

This word made its way into English in the 1100s when the crusaders saw Turkish and Arabian horsemen doing combat exercises that involved a fair bit of riding around in circles. 

Later, in Europe, a carousel became a different kind of training device. Rings were hung from bits of wood (sometimes horse-shaped) fixed to a central pole. Riders had to spear the rings as the carousel was turned round.

The term carousel carried on being used even when fighting with spears on horseback went out of fashion. It was used for horse ballets (which were formation exercises on horseback), especially in Italy and France.

Now a days the horses on a carousel are very grand:

File:Carousel at Hyde Park.jpg
Photo: carousel in Hyde Park, London, by Oxyman.

and involve no soldiers at all.

Carousel is a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well. One song from the musical is so famous it's even inscribed above a gate:

The gate's at Liverpool Football Club, and the song is the club's anthem.

Carousel is also a fine magazine about Children's Fiction.

If you're nowhere near a fair or Liverpool or a theatre, then there are many more modest carousels. A circular rack for holding photographic slides is called a carousel, and so is a revolving tray for holding...well, more or less anything, really. Spices. Pots of paint. Pickled gherkins. 

Go on. Have a twirl.

Spot the frippet: carousel. The dictionary says this word is from the French carrousel, and before that from the Italian carosello, of unknown origin.

Others speculate excitingly about the Spanish carosella, which means little battle. It'd be nice if it were true, wouldn't it.


  1. Definitely one of my very favourite words though I don't like going round and round myself! That thing about spearing the ring still goes on...or went on when I was a very small girl in the Jardin de Luxembourg in had to somehow stick something through a ring for a prize of some kind which of course I never did!

  2. Paris! And the Jardin de Luxembourg! Oh, the glamour is quite dazzling. Thanks, Adele.