This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 8 December 2014

Spot the frippet: galley.

Have you been slaving over a hot stove?

You probably have, for it's the season for feasts and festivities, and thus of the galley slave - that is, someone working very hard for no money and little thanks.

An easy spot, that.

The oldest sort of a galley was a ship, either of trade or war. These earliest galleys could be propelled by sails or oars, but later the word became particularly associated with ships rowed by slaves.

File:Abraham Willaerts, Galley and men of war.jpeg
Abraham Willaerts. See the red wing-like oars?

Those galleys travelled far and wide, but never, if they could help it, galley-west, which is a lovely American term meaning knocked silly, dizzy, or out.

Later, cooking for a ship's crew being about as much fun as rowing a ship, a ship's kitchen became known as a galley, and now any long kitchen with cupboards along the sides is called a galley kitchen.

The association of the word galley with heat and hard work didn't stop there. It transferred itself to print foundries, and there a galley is a tray open at one end for holding type.

Spot the frippet: galley. This word comes from the Old French galie, from the Latin galea, from the Greek galaia. The expression galley-west comes from the English dialect colly-west, perhaps from a village in Northamptonshire called Collyweston. No one knows quite why Collyweston is anything to do with silliness, but in Tudor times to wear a coat Collywestonward meant to wear it sideways as a fashion statement.

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