This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Monday, 1 February 2016

Spot the Frippet: tram.

A Streetcar named Desire is a brilliant name for a play, and A Tram called Desire isn't - but still, for me here in England an electrically-driven vehicle that travels along tracks let into the road is, and probably always will be, a tram.*


Photo by zed.fitzhume

A small trolley on rails used in a mine is a tram, too.

But how can we spot a tram if we neither live in a tram-crossed city nor have any intention of going down a mine? 

Well, we're still all right as long as we plan to take a shower, because a tram is a fine adjustment on a piece of machinery - and you know how long it takes to get the shower just right. 

(What you're doing when you're fiddling about with the controls is tramming it.)



You may find yourself doing the same sort of thing with an office chair, a rear-view mirror, or the gas-jets under a pressure cooker.

Lastly, if you can find a piece of silk fabric, the threads that run across the fabric - the weft threads, that is the ones that do the actual weaving in-and-out - are called tram.

Personally, I find that last piece of information vastly satisfying.

Spot the Frippet: tram. The fabric word comes from the French trame, which is related to the Latin trāns, across and trāmes, footpath. The vehicle word is, interestingly, nothing to do with footpaths at all: that word probably comes from the Low German traam, beam. The fine-adjustment word probably comes from trammel, from the Old French tramail, three-mesh net.

*A Tram Called Sam is a good title, but that would be a rather different sort of a play.


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