This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Friday, 4 March 2016

Word To Use Today: cataplasm.

I came across the word cataplasm in Christmas at Thompson Hall, a thoroughly cherishable short story by Anthony Trollope.

The plot of CaTH is rather Wodehousian, involving as it does both rather a lot of creeping about large buildings in the middle of the night, and the infinite gradations of social embarrassment.*

A cataplasm is a mustard plaster. As mustard plasters have, perfectly reasonably, fallen out of fashion (they're both messy and useless) I should perhaps add that a mustard plaster consists of a dollop of nice slimy mustard wrapped in a piece of cloth and applied to the skin. They're supposed to be good for sore throats.

Luckily for us, the word cataplasm can be used (usually ironically) to describe anything slightly unpleasant that's designed to soothe an affliction. 

Such as a lawyer, perhaps. 

File:The battle of the cataplasm.jpg

The Battle of the Cataplasm, an illustration for Tristram Shandy by J Bretherton.

Low-calorie bread can be pretty cataplasmic, too.

Word To Use Today: cataplasm. This word comes from the Greek, from kataplassein to cover with a plaster, from plassein, to shape.

*I'm not aware of PG Wodehouse ever writing about a cataplasm, but then perhaps he felt that after Christmas at Thompson Hall there wasn't a great deal of point.




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