This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 7 November 2014

Word To Use Today: geoduck.

A little learning, as Pope said, is a dangerous thing. Which is a bit of a pain because, lets face it, a little learning is all any of us are ever going to acquire.

I mean, you may well know absolutely everything about Plato and Pittsburgh, but who won the FA Cup in 1923*?

Anyway, geoduck. Those of us with a little learning will know that there's a strong chance that a word that begins geo is something to do with the Greek word for the earth; as for duck, well everyone knows what a duck is.

Except, of course, those of us with a little learning (which is, yes, all of us, see above). We will be thinking about Bombay Duck, which is a sort of fish. Here the duck bit of the name seems to be something to do with the fact that once the stuff is preserved it stinks to high heaven. Daak is an Indian term for mail (as in letters and parcels) and my guess is that, like mail, Bombay Duck communicated over a great distance. 

So, geoduck? Could it be a sort of mud-wriggling lungfish?

No, it can't, though as it happens you're not a million miles away (which is a good thing or you'd be well on the other side of the moon). A geoduck is a large (sometimes up to two metres long) edible clam found in Canada, the USA and New Zealand:

They're not only big, but long-lived: the oldest geoduck is said to have been 168 years old.

(Yes, you're seeing correctly: they do have things that look like trunks, and are sometimes called elephant clams.)

So there we have it. Geoduck. A word to confuse everyone, and to be treasured all the more for that.

Word To Use Today: geoduck. My Collins dictionary suggests that the first part of this word is pronounced as in geography, but Wikipedia suggests it's pronounced as in gooey. The word comes from the Lushootseed gʷídəq, which might mean dig deep. Or possibly something ruder.

I'm not sure how to suggest using this word, but it's too good to lie neglected in a dark dictionary. As slippery as a geoduck? As plump as a geoduck? As juicy as a geoduck? Guzzling like a geoduck?

Yes. I quite like that one.

*Bolton. The FA Cup is a soccer competition.

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