Herewith two words whose pronunciation is not obvious; one is known to me, the other is not. I’ll start with the latter.

1) A spadia is “a strip just wider than a column, overlapping the front page” of a newspaper or magazine (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Village Voice—scroll down to “Times does strip tease”). I have never seen it anywhere else and have no idea how it’s said; can anyone familiar with publishing terminology enlighten me? (I’m guessing SPAY-dee-a, but I can think of at least three other possibilities.)

2) A crosne (or crosnes) is a Chinese artichoke (also called chorogi or knotroot). I guessed the pronunciation (correctly) before looking it up; you may wish to do the same before peeking inside for the answer.

It’s pronounced just like the word crone, being named for the French town Crosne. And chorogi, a Japanese word, has the stress on the first syllable, if you were wondering. (There’s a rather unappetizing picture here.)


  1. According to
    the origin of the standard Japanese name is unclear and there are many different local names.
    The pitch accent (high tone) is on the first syllable but Japanese doesn’t have stress in the English sense.

  2. Right, but I wasn’t talking about the Japanese pitch, I was talking about the English stress — according to both the linked page and Webster’s Third International, it’s CHO-rogi in English. Insofar as anyone uses the word, of course.

  3. As for “spadia,” I’d never heard of it either, even though I used to work in advertising and (editorially) in newspapers (and ruined more than a few pairs of slacks at the presses). I went ahead and did the legwork for a full entry for my site, which I’ll put up tomorrow, but nowhere did I see any example pronunciations, out of the solid 15 or so hits for the word. FYI, one source claims that that the spadia appeared first about 15 years ago. The earliest cite I found was 1989, which jibes. However, this is the same source which says a spadia is the same as a gatefold, which it is not. A gatefold is a page which requires unfolding to view–like a Playboy centerfold–and is usually an extension of a normal page. Neat images of both spadia and gatefold.
    In any case, I think the best way to get the pronunciation for this is to call several newspapers which feature it on their rate cards, and just ask.
    One final point, for what it’s worth: the pronunciation of hypospadias might offer guidance. I’m wondering if the Greek root of the latter half of that word might also be the origin of our “spadia.”

  4. I’m glad you’re doing an entry; I was wondering how old and prevalent the word was! (Answer to both, apparently: not very.) Good suggestion about hypospadias, except that the formation of that word in Greek is unclear — the OED says “app. f. hypo- HYPO- 1 + spaein to draw,” so both the origin of the -d- and the semantics are obscure. At any rate, the pronunciation of the medical term would lend support to my guess if it’s relevant.

  5. spao is “draw” as in a sword. But it also means tear, rend, etc. spadix is a botanical term. In Greek and Latin it means palm frond, that is, something torn off the tree.
    spao also means convulse, whence spasm. spados means eunuch.
    It’s hard to believe that this isn’t all relevant, as you say.

  6. John Jainschigg says

    It may be misspelled. The alternate spelling, spadea is also popular in advertising circles, as a Google on “spadea wrap” demonstrates. And that suggests it may be pronounced “spa-DAY-ah” after Greek. Greek spadeas, I guess, means “swordsmith.”

  7. John Jainschigg says

    c.f. the above, it also occurs to me it may derive from German spaten, as in spade. In engineering, a “spade” is “a vaguely shovel-shaped object that fits around and under something else, which holds it in place.” In this case, that “something else” is either (depending on how you look at it) the magazine itself, or the saddle-stitch or binding staples.
    There’s another concept in magazine binding that’s structurally similar. When you want to include a single page of card stock (e.g., for a tear-off subscription card) in a binding run, you need to put it between forms (which in saddle-stitch binding, are stacked), and the card must be die-cut to have a little tag-end on the binding side that wraps around the spine-fold of the form on top of it — the staples go through this tag-end, holding the card in place in the finished magazine.
    But for the life of me, I can’t remember what this tag is called.

  8. Doy. I can’t believe I forgot to check for spelling variants. I’m digging for “spadea” as we speak and am relieved to find that at least it’s not in any of the mainstream dictionaries under that spelling, either.

  9. Bingo! I never got a call back from the people at the San Francisco Chronicle about the pronunciation of the word spadia, but I found this:
    “It’s a variation on the partial-page ad that wraps around the comics, which is called a spadea (pronounced spay-dee-uh).” 28 March 1993, The Seattle Times, p. A2.

  10. My Sprachgefühl is vindicated once again. Now if we could only figure out which is the original form and how it arose…

  11. John Jainschigg says

    I’ll bet someone who engineers German binding machinery knows the answer.

  12. Hmm.
    Reading this thread made me think if I were a TV producer, I’d start etymology series “Words detectives”.
    If “History’s unsolved mysteries” (or something along these lines) succeeded on PBS, why not this? There are considerably more people using language everyday than historians…

  13. There’s now a Wiktionary article for spadea that confirms the pronunciation /ˈspeɪdɪə/ and says “Possibly from Latin spadix/spathe in the sense of a thing which envelops.”

    Also, the Wikipedia article for Stachys affinis (“commonly called crosne, chinese artichoke, japanese artichoke, knotroot, or artichoke betony”) taught me the word vagility, “(biology) The degree to which an organism or taxon can or does move or spread within an environment.”

  14. Have you ever come across cathemeral?

    In the original manuscript for his paper, “Patterns of activity in the mayotte lemur, Lemur fulvus mayottensis,” Ian Tattersall introduced the term “cathemerality” to describe a pattern of observed activity that was neither diurnal nor nocturnal.[6] Though the term “cathemeral” was proposed, “a reviewer took exception to the introduction of what he regarded as unnecessary new jargon. The result was that the term ‘diel’ was substituted for ‘cathemeral’ in the published version.” In 1987 Tattersall gave a formal definition of “cathemeral”, turning to its Ancient Greek roots.

    The word is a compound of two Greek terms: kata (κατα), meaning “through,” and hemera (ήμέρα), meaning “day.” Transliteration leads to “cathemeral,” meaning “through the day, with ‘day’ meaning the full 24-hour day from midnight to midnight. Tattersall credits his father, Mr. Arthur Tattersall, and Dr. Robert Ireland, two classicists, for considering this lexical problem and proposing its solution.[2]

    It looks a bit like
    καθημερινός • (kathimerinós) m (feminine καθημερινή, neuter καθημερινό)

    1) daily, every day
    2) everyday, ordinary, workaday, commonplace
    3) working day

  15. No, I hadn’t come across it. I’m bemused that the response to the (tiresomely predictable) complaint about “unnecessary new jargon” was to exchange a word that is transparent to anyone who knows either Modern or Ancient Greek (it’s from καθ’ ἡμέραν ‘every day’) for one (“diel”) that is opaque to absolutely everyone.

  16. Jen in Edinburgh says


    diēs m or f (genitive diēī); fifth declension
    A day, particularly:
    A solar or sidereal day of about 24 hours, especially (historical) Roman dates reckoned from one midnight to the next.

    I expect more (English-speaking) people know a bit of Latin than a bit of Greek, although the -l does make it look a bit odd.

    I first came across the idea of a separate word for the 24-hour-day in Norwegian, but no doubt it’s common enough…

  17. David Marjanović says

    …but diel doesn’t mean “cathemeral”. It only ever occurs in diel activity (pattern), the cover term for diurnal, nocturnal, crepuscular and cathemeral.


  18. I expect more (English-speaking) people know a bit of Latin than a bit of Greek, although the -l does make it look a bit odd.

    Not just “a bit odd,” completely incomprehensible. No one would guess that “diel” had anything to do with “day” unless they were told.

  19. How exactly is diel supposed to be derived from diēs? It doesn’t have any of the usual endings for scientific adjectives. I would never have expected it to be from Latin.

  20. AJP Crown says

    Jen in Edinburgh: I expect more (English-speaking) people know a bit of Latin than a bit of Greek

    In most places, but surely not in Edinburgh?

  21. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I would have expected cathemeral to have something to do with ecclesiastical architecture 🙂

    I was only guessing about diel, but the OED says ‘borrowing from Latin, combined with an English element.’ First citation from 1934, so I don’t think it was invented for the lemur paper.

  22. Jen in Edinburgh says

    If Aberdonian is Doric, presumably Edinburgian is Attic 😉

  23. AJP Crown says


  24. Trond Engen says

    If that‘s what you keep in your attic, I don’t want to know what you have in your doric.

  25. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Interestingly (to me, anyway), the OED only has general meanings for that sense of Doric – ‘Of a dialect, etc.: Broad, not refined; rustic’ and ‘A ‘broad’ or rustic dialect of English, as that of the North of England, Scotch, etc’.

    I had only ever understood it to mean that one specific dialect.

  26. David Marjanović says

    I was only guessing about diel, but the OED says ‘borrowing from Latin, combined with an English element.’

    In other words, somebody correctly recognized the stem die- and then tried to stick -al- on it, with rather barbarous results.

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    Nothing wrong with diel, although it should of course be spelt dalziel.

  28. Stu Clayton says

    I see that misinformation was promulgated 16 years ago in the link to a definition of hypospadias:

    # a congenital condition in which the opening of the urethra is situated on the underside of the penis instead of at its tip #

    That makes it sound like a little hole in the side of a plastic bottle whose top can’t be unscrewed.

    In my day I saw this condition several times. What it looks like, and is, is vielmehr the failure of distal penile tissue to fully grow together to form a urethra at all. The glans is spread apart like two wings, or the business end of a hammerhead shark. The urethral opening beneath is abgeschrägt, like the end of an intravenous needle. The topography over an inch or two is that of a miniature flood plain or river delta.

    Nothing to put a horse off his feed.

  29. John Cowan says


    I think you mean dalȝiel.

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