This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Monday, 29 August 2016

Spot the Frippet: gum.

Well, there's plenty of gum about, isn't there, and it's mostly dead easy to spot after you've ungummed our eyes in the mornings.

There's chewing gum (just look at any pavement) and the things that hold our teeth in. There's the Yorkshire gum, as in Eh bah gum! which is an exclamation of anything from mild surprise to extreme exasperation.

There's gum arabic, which comes from the tree Acacia nilotica:


(here it is excreting gum)

which is found in drink syrups, marshmallows, edible glitter, wine, printers' ink, medicines, cosmetics,, shoe polish, postage stamps, envelopes, lithographic prints, ceramic glazes and fireworks...so more or less everywhere, really.

In New Zealand gum might be Kauri gum, the fossilised resin of the Kauri tree, which can be carved into works of art: 



There's even a museum dedicated to the stuff.

When I was young we used to have plastic bottles of gum for sticking paper together. You squeezed the stuff out of a slit in a rubbery thing on the top, whereupon your fingers would go instantly filthy, it would make the paper very wet for several hours, and then eventually turn out not to have had the slightest adhesive effect on anything.

Then you were properly up a gum tree, I can tell you.


File:Flowering Gum Tree. (16439672775).jpg
Flowering Gum Tree, New Zealand. Photo by GPS 56

Spot the Frippet: gum. The Yorkshire gum is a polite form of god. The gums in your mouth come from the Old English gōma, which means jaw. The sticky stuff comes from the Old French gomme. from the Latin gummi, from the Egyptian kemai. The expression up a gum tree started off as like a possum up a gum tree (that is, safe from the dogs that have been chasing it) and seems to have started off meaning safe or contented rather than in trouble. A gum tree is so called because the various species exude lots of sticky sap.


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