This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 16 October 2015

Word To Use Today: parson.

Nowadays you only really get parsons - whole, real-live parsons - in New Zealand, where a parson is a non-conformist minister.* 

Outside New Zealand parsons are pretty-much obsolete, though when I was little I can remember that old people (born in the late 19th century) would sometimes address the local vicar as parson. It never sounded quite respectful.

Unfortunately, even in New Zealand the parson is under threat. The parson bird:

Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae -Waikawa, Marlborough, New Zealand-8 (2).jpg

(it looks colourful in the photograph, but what you usually see is a black bird with a white collar) is now almost always called by its Maori name of the Tui (which is fine, of course). Tui are remarkable animals, not only being able to say human words, but being famous for getting drunk on fermented nectar.

Those of us not lucky enough to live in New Zealand have to make do with the parson's nose, which is the fatty nub of a cooked bird out of which the tail feathers grew. 

I suppose the implication is that human parsons used to have big pitted noses - and this suggests that human parsons must have been famous for being drunk too.

Word To Use Today: parson. This word comes from the Latin persōna, which means parish priest. Unfortunately nowadays in most of the world parsons are persona non grata.

*That's nothing to do with being awkward about politics, it's about coming from a tradition that was once awkward about religion. Nowadays, though, some non-conformists ministers are quite easy-going.

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