Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Randy from Pamona wrote: What Americans call standing in line seems to be called forming a queue in England. Why queue?

Here’s a word with several seemingly diverse meanings:

• a band of parchment attached to a document with seals hanging from the free ends;

• the tail of a beast on a coat of arms;

• an orderly line of people or vehicles;

• a sequence of stored computer data awaiting processing;

• a pigtail hanging down one’s back.

The word entered English from the French, which in turn had borrowed it from Latin. The original source was cauda, the tail of an animal.

So those various meanings have a thread running through them. Picture a tail hanging or drooping down and you’re not far from the line of people, the waiting data, and the plait of hair. And in music, the concluding or closing part of a movement or composition is called a coda. Same animal.

SIDEBAR: Queue Etiquette

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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