Saturday, March 31, 2012


Sometimes a word is worth examining simply because of the diverse meanings that it has picked up over the centuries. Such a word is stool.

Here’s a rundown on stool through the centuries.

  • A simple piece of wooden furniture designed for sitting [725]
  • A seat designed for a single individual, especially a king or bishop [897]
  • A low short bench or form upon which to rest the foot, to step or kneel [1250]
  • A seat for an offender [1308]
  • A frame upon which to work embroidery or tapestry [1385]
  • A commode or privy [1410]
  • A seat by a grave or tomb [1463]
  • A base or stand upon which a thing is set to raise it above the ground or general surface [1481]
  • A bench, counter, table, trestle [1519]
  • The stand of a beehive [1523]
  • Feces [1541]
  • The action of evacuating the bowels [1542]
  • A church pew [1570]
  • The stump of a tree which has been cut down [1577]
  • The scar left by a wound [1601]
  • The sill of a window [1663]
  • The ‘eye’ of an apple, pear or quince [1672]
  • A brick-molder's shed or workshop [1693]
  • The head or top of a mushroom [1744]
  • A decoy bird [1825]
  • A seat designed to be used by a clerk sitting at a high desk [1836]
  • A police informer [1906]

The last item reveals where “stool pigeon” came from. It was a pigeon fastened to a tree stump to act as a decoy to attract wild pigeons. It betrayed its own, albeit unwittingly.

SIDEBAR: If you live in the GT region and are over 50, get a team of 3 together for this year's Senior Spelling Bee. Practice rounds at TADL Wed. April 25 & Thurs. April 26 at noon. Main event Friday, May 4th, 1 p.m., at the Gilbert Lodge on Twin Lakes. Call the TC Senior Center for details at 231-922-4911.

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

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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.



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