This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 29 April 2013

Spot the frippet: sword.

I came across a St George's Day celebration recently. It mostly seemed to consist of children rampaging happily about trying to kill each other. Some of them had wooden swords bought specially for the purpose, and the rest had swords made of sticks they'd found in the woods.

And not a computer game in sight.

Well, given the chance to kill people in real life, what child would plump for virtual carnage?

For those of us too old to rampage about with swords, there are still swords to spot. The sword lily is another name for the gladiolus (which Latin word is also to do with swords) and is named for its sword-shaped leaves; then there are sword plants and sword fish

and swordbills

File:Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera).jpg
Photo by Michael Woodruff

and swordtails.

File:Swordtail cultivar.JPG
Photo by Pharoah Hound.

But, sadly, none of these is native to Bitain, where I live.

So what can I do? Well, there's a faint chance of my seeing a sword dance:

and a slightly greater chance of seeing a sword-swallower. It's certainly not uncommon to see people crossing swords with each other - that is having an argument - or perhaps they'll be indulging in a bit of swordplay, instead, which is the same as crossing swords but where the argument is more about logic than ill-feeling.

The sword that's before us all, though, is the sword of Damocles. Damocles was an Ancient Greek idiot who so annoyed Dionysius II with his greasiness and general you're-so-lucky-to-be-king stuff that Dionysius offered to change places. Well, Damocles jumped at the chance - but above Damocles' head the king hung a sword held on a single horse hair, to show how dangerous is any position of power. Damocles soon got the point (not literally) and went back to happy obscurity.

Painting by Richard Westall, 1812.

Actually, come to think about it, I doubt Damocles was happy. He was plainly a natural whinger, and they seldom are.

Spot the frippet: sword. This word comes from the Old English sweord, as is related to the Saxon sverd.

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