Saturday, April 11, 2009

Neck and neck

The Latin word collum, neck, has supplied several words to our language. Collar will be immediately apparent. In the literal sense, it is something worn around the neck; in the figurative sense, it means to arrest or detain.

Accolade started out as an embrace about the neck. It was part of the ceremony used to bestow knighthood. Now it refers to praise or to a special award of recognition for an accomplishment.

Decollate is a word that has gone out of fashion. It meant to sever at the neck, to behead.
Conchologists used the word to describe breaking off the apex of a shell.

Décolleté describes a garment cut low at the neckline. Decolletage is a low neckline on a woman’s dress.

Machicolation was a projecting gallery at the top of a castle wall. Notched openings with a necklike appearance allowed archers to shoot, and openings in the floor allowed defenders to drop rocks and boiling liquids on attackers.

To succolate was to bear a burden on your shoulders, such as a sack of potatoes. The load would press against the back of your neck.

Torticollis is a painful disorder in which contracted neck muscles cause the head to twist to one side.

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

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