My wife and I were talking about Wallace and Gromit, of which we are fans, and she asked why Gromit was called that. A quick googling turned up this: “Gromit, meanwhile, got his name after Nick heard his brother, an electrician, talking about ‘grommets’ – rings, or washers, used in the trade.” So that was settled, but then we discussed what exactly a grommet was. AHD says:

1. a. A reinforced eyelet, as in cloth or leather, through which a fastener may be passed.
b. A small metal or plastic ring used to reinforce such an eyelet.
2. Nautical A loop of rope or metal used for securing the edge of a sail to its stay.
[Probably from obsolete French gromette, gormette, chain joining the ends of a bit, from Old French, from gourmer, to bridle.]

Interestingly, the ancient OED entry (anno 1900) has it s.v. grummet, with grommet as an alternative spelling; the first sense is the nautical one (1626 “Grummets and staples for all yeards”), and the washer sense dates only to 1942 (“The power cord should have been threaded through that grommet first”).

On a completely different note, we were listening to a piece by Frank Bridge on the radio, and I took a look at his extensive list of compositions, which turns out to feature an excessive number of entries that sound made for Madeline Bassett: Rising When the Dawn Still Faint Is, Mid of the Night, Music When Soft Voices Die, Harebell and Pansy, Lean Close Thy Cheek against My Cheek, Fair Daffodils… I’ve only gotten up to 1905 and I can’t go on, you’ll have to seek out more yourself. But the cake is taken by a 1916 work called The Graceful Swaying Wattle (“for 2-part chorus and piano or string orchestra”), set to this appalling poem by Veronica Mason, which would have set the golden-tressed Bassett all a-quiver. A sample quatrain:

It seems to be a fairy tree
It dances to a melody,
and sings a little song to me,
the graceful swaying wattle.

If you really want, you can hear it sung here, but I will not be responsible for any medical complications that result.


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Although I was vaguely aware of the electrician kind, it is this sort that I have actually come across in Real Life:

    I never heard anyone call them “tympanostomy tubes.” I expect Americans do. (Also, I am not, thanks be to Apollo and Asclepius, an ENT surgeon. I think I once saw an eardrum through an otoscope when I was a medical student, though,)

  2. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I was going to say that I know of grommets mainly as something which small children have in their ears, although I think I did know there were other meanings.

  3. Stu Clayton says

    According to a Spiegel headline a few days ago, the company behind Wallace and Gromit is about to run out of money. At least that’s what the headline appears to mean: Den Machern von »Wallace & Gromit« geht die Knete aus. Knete is a slang word for “money”.

    Or rather “dough”, also “clay” as in Play-Doh. Aardman Animations is about to run out of its modelling clay (“Lewis Newplast”), since the company supplying it has gone out of business.

  4. Is the graceful swaying wattle attached to a turkey? I dare not click on the link to find out.

    There is only one good poem celebrating a (different kind of) wattle:

    This here is the wattle,
    the emblem of our land.
    You can stick it in a bottle,
    you can hold it in your hand.

    I knew the meaning of grommet, thanks to many childhood hours spent making things with Meccano. I don’t believe that American electricians use such things, at least not that I have encountered.

  5. As to the etymology of washer itself, the OED says:


    Etymonline attaches it, maybe, to Old French vis, whence vise. I don’t know its source.

  6. Y : /me stares at your post. :sigh:

  7. Wallace and Gromit, of which we are fans

    Me too! And of all the Aardman spinoffs (Shaun the sheep, Timmy for kids). There’s something about that clay/dough roundedness that still beats purely film-generated visuals. The clay-supply crisis sounds terrible news.

    My Dad was an electrician by trade, and I’ve been falling out of boats since a kid, so I’m familiar with both those senses of ‘grommet’/they’re the primary ones for me.

  8. Stu Clayton says

    /me stares at your post. :sigh:

    I’d never seen that, but figured it out quickly enough. What I’m impressed by is that Y knows the Unicode of that special non-deletable space character, with which you can indent as desired. JC once wrote about it years ago and I made a note that I now can’t find.

  9. Stu Clayton says

    The clay-supply crisis sounds terrible news.

    At the end of the Spiegel article, it says that you have until December to buy the intellectual property rights to the clay. I would add: and strike a deal with Wallace and Gromit, who are now hanging over a barrel. Of course Gromit would find a way out of it. Typologically, Wallace is just a hopeless hubby.

  10. Stu Clayton says

    Hat, I’ve been short-changed again by the edit box !

  11. Y, don’t play with Unicode here, we are supposed to communicating.

    Stu: can’t read the Spiegel article without registration. It’s 0.50 euros but can’t be bothered. Can you summarise it?

  12. Aardman Animations is about to run out of its modelling clay (“Lewis Newplast”), since the company supplying it has gone out of business.


    Fans spent the weekend worrying about the fate of Aardman Animations when the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the studio, based in Bristol, England, would be facing its “hour of knead” after the only manufacturer of the special clay used in its creations had closed its doors earlier this year. Having bought what it could, The Telegraph reported, the studio had enough clay left to make only one more film, a new “Wallace and Gromit” feature coming next year.

    But no, the studio’s foundations are not crumbling. Aardman Animations said on Monday it had plenty of clay to keep molding.

    Fans had “absolutely no need to worry,” the studio said in a statement. The studio has “high levels of existing stocks of modeling clay to service current and future productions,” it said.

    Why anyone would believe the Torygraph I don’t know.

  13. Y knows the Unicode of that special…

    I copied and pasted it from somewhere. I am just a [monkey emoji].

    It’s been around for years now.

  14. Stu Clayton says

    @V: Can you summarise it?

    Here’s the DeepL result. Nowhere did I need to put my oar in. It even got the pun right: “But now the dough is running out”.

    It is the raw material for “Shaun the Sheep” and other animated film stars: Lewis Newplast, a special modeling material. But production has been discontinued and the money is running out. The end of Aardman Animations?

    It is one of the most popular animated film studios and specializes in films with clay figures: Aardman Animations, based in Bristol, England, is in danger of running out of raw material for its stop-motion films. This is reported by the Daily Telegraph.

    Since it was founded in the 1970s, the makers of the Aardman studio have been modeling their characters out of a certain kind of plasticine: Lewis Newplast. The material is named after a former art teacher – Mr. Lewis originally produced the clay in his garden shed in Chislehurst, England. The clay is particularly easy to mold and retains its shape even under the heat of the studio lights, according to the Telegraph.

    But now the dough is running out: the sole manufacturer of Lewis Newplast, Newclay Products from Torquay, has announced that the company is being liquidated. According to Valerie Dearing from Newclay Products, Aardman bought up a large part of the remaining stock, around 40 boxes weighing around 400 kilograms.

    Aardman Animations specializes in clay-motion films, i.e. animated clay figures. Aardman became internationally known through the films with the characters Wallace and Gromit. In German children’s rooms, Aardman’s work is known for the “Shaun the Sheep” films on Kika.

    In December, Netflix will launch a new Aardman production, “Chicken Run: Operation Nugget”, the sequel to “Chicken Run” from the year 2000. After that, there will be enough money for another planned “Wallace & Gromit” film, writes the Telegraph, which is due to be released in 2024.

    The supply of Lewis Newplast would then be exhausted. Aardman would then have to find a replacement product – or another solution – so that it doesn’t have to stop.

    The operators of Newclay Products are closing their company after 16 years because they have not found a successor. However, the intellectual property is still for sale until the end of the year, according to the website.

  15. Stu Clayton says

    @Y: I copied and pasted it from somewhere. I am just a [monkey emoji].

    Now that I look at the HTML, I see that blockquote was used. That indents a text and left-justifies it, so it is not possible to have different amounts of indentation for different lines.

    What a drag. JC to the rescue !

  16. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I was going to get all pedantic and say that I believed that to be not an emoji but an emoticon, but actually the linked article says so, at least until it starts on instructions

  17. Stu Clayton says

    So what is the difference between an “emoji” and an “emoticon” ? Even if you can tell me, I can’t promise that I will still know tomorrow. I just like to show that I can summon up a fleeting interest in ephemera. So important for those of my age, whose sights are set on higher, perdurable things such as the starry firmament.

  18. An Emoji is a picture whose origin is in Japanese mobile phones. An emoticon is a combination of ASCII characters that resemble a face. They have nothing in common in origin. They have nothing in common other than the words sounding similar.

  19. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Emoticons are the ascii ones, like the shrug. Emojis are the actual pictures.

    The OED and AHD keep them separate, as I do, while wiktionary thinks ’emoticon’ could also be used for the image kind.

  20. The sweet-scented wattle spreads glory about
    Enticing the bird and the bee
    As I lie at full rest in a fern-covered nest
    ‘Neath the shade of a kurrajong tree

    High up in the air you can hear the refrain
    Of a butcher-bird whistling a tune
    And spring in its glory is back once again
    On the banks of the reedy lagoon

    A seasonal contribution, by memory, so it may not be quite right.

  21. Stu Clayton says

    Not much action or development there. Also, how can it be that you hear the refrain, but apparently not the tune whistled by the butcher-bird ? And “glory” is repeated. As for lying in a fern-covered nest, he/she had better make sure it’s not the nest of the butcher-bird.

  22. This here is the wattle,
    the emblem of our land.
    You can stick it in a bottle,
    you can hold it in your hand.

    I would suggest it’s the same kind of wattle, given that the wattle is the national flower of Australia. And I did click through to the poem, which pretty much confirms it’s about Australia.

    The bush was grey a week today
    Olive green and brown and grey,
    But now the Spring has come this way
    With blossoms for the wattle,

    It seems to be a fairy tree
    It dances to a melody,
    and sings a little song to me,
    the graceful swaying wattle.

    “The bush was grey a week today, Olive green and brown and grey” are a giveaway. That’s an apt description of the Australian bush.

    maidhc’s poem similarly contains references to Australia (“kurrajong tree”, “butcher bird“). Butcher-birds are so named for their habit of hanging captured prey (nothing very large, they’re not such big birds) in a tree.

  23. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The OED thinks that ’emoticon’ is emotion + icon, but I had aways thought that it was connected to ’emote’ as the command to produce output such as ‘jen shrugs’ (as opposed to ‘say’ to produce ‘jen says “hello”‘) in various text-based communication systems. Possibly because of the hard t – I suppose it could be more a visual pun…

  24. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Obviously you can say something like ‘it’s a week today since x happened’, but unadorned ‘a week today’ definitely means a date in the future to me. Is that regional?

    I don’t really see the first one as a form of ‘week today’ – you could just as well say ‘a week since’ or ‘a week now since’.

  25. Incidentally, that kind of nostalgic, slightly cloying Australiana is pretty much par for the course.

    Try My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, which all schoolchildren know.

    Or this song about “Christmas where the gum trees grow”:

    Christmas where the gum trees grow
    There is no frost and there is no snow
    Christmas in Australia’s hot
    Cold and frosty is what it’s not
    When the bloom of the jacaranda tree is here
    Christmas time is near.

    From England came our Christmas fare
    They even said what Santa should wear
    But here down under for summer’s cool
    Santa should dip in a swimming pool

    Santa rides in a sleigh on snow
    But down here where the gum trees grow
    Santa should wear some water skis
    And glide around Australia with ease

    To ride ’round the bush where it’s often dry
    To cart all the presents piled up high
    A red-nosed reindeer would never do
    Santa should jump on a kangaroo.

    This kind of thing isn’t exactly my cup of tea. All national identity stuff, often doggerel, produced by white people to proclaim their cultural separateness from the Brits.

  26. Stu Clayton says

    I had aways thought that it was connected to ’emote’

    I did as well. Problem is, the unwashed masses probably don’t know the word “emote”. I have used the word several times in my life (speaking English, that is), but nobody understood it (that’s why I remember). I have never heard it used by anyone else.

    I suspect “The OED thinks that ’emoticon’ is emotion + icon” is a report on folk etymology.

  27. “When the Dawn Still Faint”
    A certain Sepideh always reminds me that this part of the day is called سپیده sepideh.

  28. Um, can I suggest in a roundabout way that “Waltzing Matilda” is a bit, you know, without having my effigy burned in the central square of Melbourne or whatever?
    It’s practically macaronic.

  29. David Marjanović says

    What I’m impressed by is that Y knows the Unicode of that special non-deletable space character, with which you can indent as desired. JC once wrote about it years ago and I made a note that I now can’t find.

    It’s   – the non-breaking space that is also non-deleted by helpful blog software.


  30. Stu Clayton says

      saved !

    helpful blog software

    “Some of them want to help you,
    Some of them want to be helped by you …”

  31. Stu — we can make that in a spyral.

  32. Well, I know “emote” from Robbie Williams’s “Party like a Russian” (a song that totally looks as if it were written after he performed at a private party before Abramovich).

  33. @DM, wow!!!! It is logical, but it never occured to me to try it.

  34. I looked in Liberman’s bibliography of English etymology, a very thorough resource for older etymologies, good or otherwise. All he has for washer is the 19th century collections of John Davies, an enthusiast of supposed Celtic borrowings into English, who would somehow associate washer with Welsh gwasg ‘pressure’.

  35. America is by far not immune to treacly — molasses-y, rather — nostalgic songs packed with local signifiers, well parodied by Commander Cody:

    CHORUS: Take me back to those old Kentucky hills of Tennessee,
    Where the mockin’ bird is singin’ high up in the laurel tree,
    Let the Alabama moon shine her light on me
    Way back in those old Kentucky hills of Tennessee

    My Daddy was a rounder, he wore a rounder’s hat and coat,
    He used to strum a banjo, though he couldn’t play a note.
    My Momma used to tell me, with a smile upon her face,
    “If you want a second helpin’, son, you’ll have to say more grace.”

    It was just a year ago, I took out on the bum,
    With only fourteen dollars, a suitcase and a gun.
    But now I am a rich man, and there’s one thing I know:
    The place that I long most to be is a place where I can’t go. CHORUS

    Now if you ever leave your home and loved ones far behind,
    Someday you’ll open up your eyes and see that you were blind.
    ‘Cause if there is a heaven, I know where it will be,
    Way back in those old Kentucky hills of Tennessee. CHORUS

  36. I think the genre is not particularly popular in Russia, but it reminded me of something truly horrible, namely Любэ, the pop group, whose lyrics are (of course) dumb and vulgar, but are deprived of vulgarity’s self-irony and less vulgar than usual camp from 90s. I keep feeling that the author could write better, but tries to keep songs at the right (in his view) level of dumb, that much of this stupidity is calculated.

    First, back in 90s, my friend’s cousins came from italy and we discovered that they listen to it. And second, much later, I found that a certain especially disgusting song is popular among Russian learners. It was called берёзки.

  37. Actually, it even became my usual recommendation to learners who ask about music in Russian: “never ever listen to любэ”.

  38. It’s   – the non-breaking space that is also non-deleted by helpful blog software.

    Yes, that’s one of several boutique spaces that work here:

    | |   non-breaking space
    | | (standard space, for comparison)
    | |   thin space
    | |   en space
    | |   em space

    The width of each space (in the prevailing font) is shown by my placing it between vertical lines. All but the standard space should be non-breaking, in fact.

    A great annoyance in advanced use of Word: there is no space that is both non-breaking and of variable width (for well-managed full justification).

    Remember also that hmtl blockquote can be nested:

    first level of blockquote

    second level of blockquote

    Also handy is the non-breaking hyphen: & #8209; ‑ (but omit the space that I put in there so it would show properly without simply making a hyphen; for some reason the usual trick didn’t work).

  39. that kind of nostalgic, slightly cloying Australiana is pretty much par for the course …

    America is by far not immune to treacly — molasses-y, rather — nostalgic songs

    This kind of thing isn’t exactly my cup of tea. … to proclaim their cultural separateness from the Brits.

    Quite. Enough already.

    NZ has the advantage we can set the treacly in Te Reo Māori, which makes it sound far more exotic. Most NZ’ers know at least a few of the Māori words — probably more than know much of the National Anthem in Te Reo.

    If you want more treacly, NZ authors are also strongly represented as authors at Mills & Boon.

  40. David Eddyshaw says

    A potential for cloying sentimentality may be one of those there human universals.
    All together now:

    Alle Menschen werden Brüder …

    (Of course, if you’re Schiller, you can carry it off regardless. Sentimental? Na und?)

  41. And don’t forget & #x2001;, the EM QUAD (as Noetica says, omit the space in actual use).

  42. I was just this morning cleaning out the container with the boxes of assorted size rubber grommets. Like others, I imagine, I’ve known them since a boomer childhood building Heathkits.

    Two relatively recent office customization trends both involve “grommet-mounting,” showing how the sense has generalized. Putting a flat-screen monitor on a pole passing through the meant-for-wires holes in a desk with a clamp on the bottom, stabilized by a grommet, using much less space than a clamp. And custom keyboards where the plate that holds the individual switches has eyelets on its edge into which grommets are inserted that then rest on studs in the case, minimizing vibration and noise.

  43. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    I’m surprised the other meaning of grommet, meaning a very young & enthusiastic surfer. did not also come up. It’s been in the language for a couple generations now.

  44. January First-of-May says

    I would suggest it’s the same kind of wattle, given that the wattle is the national flower of Australia. And I did click through to the poem, which pretty much confirms it’s about Australia.

    It is indeed about the Australian kind of wattle. Here’s a fuller version, with a picture.
    …the quoted couplet was probably the worst bit of the poem as far as I’m concerned; it’s not that bad. Still overly sweet, though.

    the non-breaking space that is also non-deleted by helpful blog software

    I use it quite often in my comments to make multi-line gaps between paragraphs (when I want to have visibly separated longer sections) – a line with just a non-breaking space isn’t recognized as empty by the software, so it isn’t collapsed into the surrounding empty lines.
    I hadn’t thought of using it for indenting; maybe I’ll try that if I ever need indenting in my comments. Don’t recall it coming up much.

  45. > grommet, meaning a very young & enthusiastic surfer

    I see that sense is at wiktionary. Also “A boy serving on a ship.” No cites, though. Both senses new to me.

    wikti doesn’t mention the “tympanostomy tubes” sense.

    Urban dictionary alleges

    A possible etymology for the word may be from the Portuguese term ‘grumete’, meaning the lowest ranking person on board a naval ship – this word would have been used widely in South Africa in the period when surfing was becoming popular.
    [wikti] Portuguese/Spanish “Borrowed from Catalan grumet, from Old French groumet (“valet, servant”), from Middle English grome.”
    (giving English/Dutch ‘groom’; also Old French ‘groumet’ wine broker/specifically cellar servant > Middle French ‘gourmet’)

    _Would_ Portuguese have been widely know in S.A. “when surfing was becoming popular”? Or is it direct from the Dutch ‘groom’/’servant’ sense; and would that be as offensive as my nose is telling me?

    ‘Grom’ also slang in Australia, with the same dubious etym.

  46. drasvi : “берёзки” — there’s this chain store catering to Russian emigres in Bulgaria called “берёзка”. That’s where I bought that jar of аджика. I thought it meant “бреза” with a diminutive? But there are surely nuances to the meaning.

  47. Some of the real ones verge on self-parody:

    “Wish that I was down on Rockytop,
    Down in the Tennessee hills;
    Ain’t no smog and smoke on Rockytop,
    Ain’t no telephone bills.”

    But I can’t think of any American ones which take the same sort of pleasure in obscure names and local dialect terms as Waltzing Matilda. Feels like a gap.

  48. берёзка is the diminutive of берёза “birch tree”. It was the name of a chain of foreign currency shops in the late Soviet Union, where foreign residents could buy stuff that wasn’t available in normal shops for dollars and other hard currency. I guess the Bulgarian chain is riffing on Soviet nostalgia.
    I always liked the name of the Polish equivalent, PEWEX. It’s an acronym for Przedsiębiorstwo Eksportu Wewnętrznego, meaning “internal export enterprise”. “Internal export” is one of those bizarre concepts only a government bureaucracy can come up with.

  49. Lameen: Argh! I’m reminded of the first time I heard Jean Ritchie live, at an outdoor folk festival in 1972. Some drunk in the audience kept yelling “SING ROCKYTOP!” He was eventually removed, to everyone’s relief.

  50. Hans : So like Bulgarian Corecom? Chain of foreign currency shops. Weird. No, that is seriously creepy. I can’t convey how creepy this is in text.

  51. David Marjanović says

    Weird. No, that is seriously creepy. I can’t convey how creepy this is in text.

    That’s what Really Existing Socialism™ was like. 😐

  52. Emoticons are the ascii ones, like the shrug.

    Except the shrug contains a non-ASCII character. Certainly the original emoticons – starting with 🙂 – were ASCII, but I’d say nowadays the distinction is that an emoticon is a sequence of (non-emoji) characters depicting a face, whereas an emoji is a single character from the emoji range within Unicode, which is generally presented in color. The emo in emoji has nothing to do with emotion, and most of the characters are not faces.

  53. I’ve just learned from Wikipedia (guess I’m behind the times) that the shrug belongs to the category of kaomoji, which developed in Japan independently of Western emoticons, and differ from them by not being rotated sideways — i.e., ;-) is rotated, (^_^) is not — and by incorporating Japanese and other character sets. There are probably debates out there on whether kaomoji are a subset of emoticons or a parallel category, and if the latter, what is the cover term that includes both?

    (Only one other mention of “kaomoji” here.)

  54. “the original emoticons – starting with 🙂 – were ASCII”

    Whoops, I bet you actually typed the characters :) and overly-helpful blog software automatically transmogrified them into an emoji. Stop the machine!

    The same thing happened to my ;-), until I protected it by using an HTML code — &#059; — for the semicolon.

  55. I can’t think of any American ones which take the same sort of pleasure in obscure names and local dialect terms as Waltzing Matilda.

    Do “Git Along, Little Dogies” or some other more-cowboy-than-cowboy ballads count? How about the code-switching version of Hey, Baby, qué pasó?

  56. Argh. Actually I typed colon, hyphen, closing parenthesis (which I thought was the first one). I should have proofread after posting.

  57. “Why anyone would believe the Torygraph I don’t know.”

    Well, you probably don’t read it, Mr Hat, judging by your sneer; but it’s not too bad when it reports straight news, although it has moved too far towards wokeness and statism over the last few years. At the moment it is in danger of being taken over by a UAE-based group, and if that happens I think we might stop believing it.

    Your blog is marvellous, but the comments have become increasingly facetious and sarcastic lately.

  58. David Eddyshaw says

    I have read the Torygraph, and I am here to tell you it highly tendentious and slanted. You can present a more or less completely false picture of the world by selecting what (possibly true) facts you choose to keep shoving under your readers’ noses and steadfastly ignoring other facts.

    The Daily Telegraph has thoroughly poisoned the minds of elderly relatives of mine who rely on it as their major authoritative source of information about the world.

    It differs from the the foul Daily Mail only in being more genteel.

    I assure you that my comments are neither facetious nor sarcastic.

  59. Stu Clayton says

    Your blog is marvellous, but the comments have become increasingly facetious and sarcastic lately.

    Lately ? In my comments over the years I have labored to leaven the solemnity of other commenters, and now they are awarded the blame for my levity ? Get along with you, Mrs Teapot !

  60. David Marjanović says

    the shrug contains a non-ASCII character

    Three – the overscore isn’t in the ASCII either.

  61. Etymonline’s source for washer (flat ring) being maybe from French is Weekley’s Etymological Dictionary of 1921. The OED’s “of doubtful origin” is from 1923, so they probably saw Weekley’s guess and considered it not even worth mentioning; no professional current dictionary gives it any space either, not even the exhaustive Liberman. A look at the OED’s citations shows why: Weekley’s speculation is based on a single citation spelled wisher, but all the other citations in the OED are spelled with an a. If it came from French then earlier citations should be more likely to be spelled with i, but they aren’t. I couldn’t find any possible source for this sense in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, either.

    This is why I don’t recommend Etymonline for non-experts: he’s typically just scooping up anything indiscriminately, often from very old and outdated sources, and he strips out the source so you can’t even tell what’s likely to be obsolete without doing your own research. For non-experts the first stop should always be AHD, which is just as free as Etymonline and written by trained etymologists who kept up with current scholarship, in several languages — but they have nothing for washer, either.

    The Middle English Dictionary has some citations for washer, but apparently not the ring kind of washer; it appears only in inventory lists of smiths’ tools, and each list says there are only one or two of them, so it’s uncertain what it actually is. Their guess is “a tool of some sort, prob. a blacksmith’s device for sprinkling water on a fire or tongs used for quenching hot metal”, which gets us nowhere with the flat ring sense.

    As the Straight Dope noticed, the OED’s earliest citation that actually describes a washer is from 1611 (Florio’s Italian-English dictionary): “Cérchio di ferro, an iron hoope, amongst gunners called a washer, which serues to keepe the iron pin at the end of the axeltree from wearing the naue.”

  62. Three [non-ASCII characters] – the overscore isn’t in the ASCII either.

    Precision! Two types, three tokens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  63. @Lameen

    For background on Waltzing Matilda, see Bush ballad on Wikipedia. This type of verse was particularly prevalent in the late 19th century. The timing might account for the strong tendency to corny versifying and the delight in using Australian expressions as a way of asserting Australianness. The lyrics to Waltzing Matilda were written by Banjo Paterson, who, along with Henry Lawson, was one of the most renowned bush poets.

    I think “Christmas where the gum trees grow” is more recent and thus less inclined to that kind of poetastry (if there is such a word). For a list of “Aussie Christmas songs”, see this site. (I am not recommending them; merely giving you a taste of what’s around.)

  64. @ktschwarz. “no professional current dictionary gives [the origin of washer] any space either, not even the exhaustive Liberman.”

    To what dictionary of Liberman’s are you referring? His Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction (which treats fifty-five words) and his Etymology for Everyone: Word Origins and How We Know Them are expressly selective.

  65. The bibliography: see Y’s comment. Liberman is exhaustive in the sources he includes for words that he investigates, and I assumed washer counted as one of them. But maybe that was unwarranted; washer is only in the appendix listing proposed Celtic-derived words, not in the main list of words that got full investigations.

    In any case, large etymological dictionaries such as the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (1966) and Barnhart (1988) say that this sense of washer is unexplained, and those authors were aware of Weekley’s book (Barnhart cites it in one entry), so I think they would have seen his proposed origin, and chose to leave it out.

  66. I have read the Torygraph, and I am here to tell you it highly tendentious and slanted.

    In general I defer to m’learned colleague. I haven’t read the Torygraph in many years. Time is short; I can’t read every Brit newspaper; on the balance of probabilities, the Grauniad [**] is less tendentious and slanted than the Torygraph or Murdoch press. So @Hat’s expostulation is no surprise.

    In fairness, the Torygraph does seem to keep up a good level of ‘sting’s on MP’s noses-in-the-trough — of either colour (Vince Cable, 2009 expenses scandal). Just this weekend “Knighthoods for MPs rise eightfold under Conservatives”

    [**] Besides, I always like a good pun and more like a dreadful pun. And the G’s coverage of Australia seems more accurate than any of the Aus press bar public service broadcasting (Murdoch again!); and their coverage of NZ is at least as good as any NZ press.

  67. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    It is surely the sign of a mind fenced-in by decades-old preconceptions of Londoners to keep calling that northern publication by a name rooted in the vagaries of cast-lead printing and shipping first-edition plates to Sodom.

    On the other hand I caught them changing from “she” to “they” where the referent to all appearances is as cis as they come. In the middle of a hed, no less. There is such a thing as being too pronoun-sensitive. But the spelling has improved, at least if you look in the afternoon. (I should look at 5am GMT and see if there’s anything juicy).

  68. In fairness, the Torygraph does seem to keep up a good level of ‘sting’s on MP’s noses-in-the-trough — of either colour

    That’s good to know; I’ll place them on a slightly higher level in my own private Inferno than, say, the Daily Fail.

  69. a mind fenced-in by decades-old preconceptions of Londoners

    Huh? I’ve lived in Yorkshire as long as I lived in London; I’ve lived outside Blighty as long as I’ve lived in either.

    ‘Grauniad’ is a term of endearment, fondness, infinite respect. (And a mark of reading Private Eye.) Every British (and worldwide?) serious newspaper has a pet name. What’s your beef?

  70. I assume Lars was joking.

  71. David Marjanović says

    Precision! Two types, three tokens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Thank you! I was wondering how to express that and gave up. ^_^

    and worldwide?

    Not by any means.

  72. The earliest quotation of washer in the OED is “continentibus L. Linches, v. paribus tenellarum, ij. Whashers” (i.e. 50 linches, 5 pairs of tongs, 2 “whashers”). If the wh- is real, it would indicate a Germanic origin, not a French loanword.

    The source is given as “Accts. Exchequer King’s Remembrancer 470/17 m. 2” (m. stands for “membrane”), and the date, 1346. However the record for that reference number (Account of works at Westminster and the Tower of London) indicates a date between 1397 and 1399. (Image here and the following, redirected from here, if one should care to search for the word as written.)

  73. Stephen Rowland says

    The OED citation should probably be “470/16 m.2″, giving a date of 19-20 Edward III = 1345-1346. The image is here, the quotation being the 7th line from the bottom.

  74. Thank you! It looks like the same error is in the MED, which is where the OED must have copied it from.

    The initial Wh is very clear, when I know what I am looking at. I wish I could read the full line but I don’t know this script very well.

  75. where the OED must have copied it from — other way around: the OED entry is unrevised from 1923, the MED is more recent and copied from it. MED has that citation marked with “[OD col.]”, meaning “quotations taken from the slip collections of the Oxford English Dictionary. This form of citation and reference is used when a MS or edition is not otherwise accessible to the MED.”

    The OED assigns this quotation to the ring sense, which doesn’t seem likely since the smith only has two of them. The suggestion that it could be a water sprinkler probably comes from the 1952 book cited by MED for two of the other quotations, Building in England Down to 1540. I expect the OED will revisit the dates and interpretations eventually.

    I don’t know how much weight can be given to the wh- spelling considering that it’s just w- in the other three citations in MED.

  76. I don’t know when and where the wh-w merger started. Gven that it was the earliest citation, I wondered if whasher was a pre-merger form.

    I too thought that two washers are odd, but presumably the interpretation is informed by the preceding linches, i.e. linchpins. Maybe there’s some wheel in which the linchpins break frequently and need replacing, by means of a tenella? The full context might help.

  77. I don’t know when and where the wh-w merger started.

    The first appearance of the unetymological spelling whelk given by the OED is dated 1500; the OE spelling was weoloc ~ wioloc.

  78. “dated 1500”: to be precise, “a1500” and cited from the Wright-Wülcker collection of glossaries. I expect the revision will eventually identify the quote by the specific manuscript, with dating re-evaluated.

    The W range in OED is mostly still 1920s scholarship; the Middle English Dictionary is more up-to-date in this range and more complete in its quotations. They also have the glossary quotation for whelke, and an earlier “Take whelkes and sethe hom” from a cookbook dated ?c1425.

    MED also has earlier unetymological wh- spellings for other words, such as the verb wash: e.g., from one manuscript of the Wycliffite Bible, “þe trene vessel forsoþe shal be whasche [vr. wasshid; WB(2): waischun] wiþ water.”

    In the other direction, e.g., spellings of whine without an h are found as early as Laȝamon’s Brut, “wepen and weinen”.

    So I’m getting the impression that if you see both w- and wh- spellings of a word in the 1300s, you can’t know which one is etymological without further information. Maybe Nelson Goering knows more.

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