gnomon |ˈnōmän|noun1 the projecting piece on a sundial that shows the time by the position of its shadow. I found this word in a poem, a poem, obviously, about a sundial.
I never heard that word. I love it. I love words.
I know that the stiffened ends of shoe laces are called aglets. And I know that the wire shape around a light bulb under a lamp shade is called a harp. And I know that lagniappe is an unexpected extra thrown in, like the extra doughnut in a baker's dozen. Oh, and what's that lovely word for an oyster treat that late-drinking husbands in New Orleans used to bring their annoyed wives to soothe them? I can't think of it right now and I've made it. I know the recipe.; I think it's in one of my cookbooks. It will come to me about three a.m.
I can remember the medieval word for a toothbrush - for what was used as a toothbrush - a scurryfunge. I like that one. Gwyneth Paltrow used one in "Shakespeare in Love."
A few years ago I came across a page-a-day calendar in which every day offered an obsolete, forgotten word. I began to write poetry riffing on a word. Here's one of my favourites, the first word I had to play with: swarble
How did we lose this one so necesssary
to small boys
John used to swarble
all the time
up a tree
straight and smooth as bark can be
no impediments no limbs no
awkward branches just up
We have a home movie of John
or so I had thought
but I know now he was swarbling
up a stone pillar at the edge
of the garden
toeholds to be sure
not much for a four-year-old
It took a while but in the end
Now he is grown he climbs
hills mountains cliffs and crags
bluffs overhangs crevasses and chimneys
rocks and ice
You can´t swarble a person