Sunday, December 18, 2011

Put That In Your Pipe

Vic wrote to tell me that he had a question about a word used in The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allen Poe. It occurs in this passage: "My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day! But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

Pipe in this case means a barrel, and a similar word existed in a large cluster of Germanic and Scandinavian languages. The tubular wind instrument is connected, the common ground being the shape. And all kinds of tubing—many with medical applications—are also referred to as pipes. The Oxford English Dictionary gives 29 separate definitions for the word, and some of those have subcategories.

Hollow cylinders of all shapes and sizes referring to streams, gorges, saddlery, machine sockets, hairdressing, jewelry, plants, animal traps, beehives, mining and geological strata, volcanoes, tunnels, confectionary, computing, and smoking use the word pipe. Talk about versatility. . . .

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

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