Thursday, October 08, 2015


Mike from Cadillac asked about the word shingles. Specifically, he wanted to know how the painful rash connects to a roof tile.

Even though the current spelling of both words is identical, it is an accident of history. The overlapping shingles used to protect a roof are thin pieces of wood with parallel sides, one end thicker than the other. It comes from the Latin word scindula, a split piece of wood.

The viral rash comes from the Latin cingulum, a girdle or belt. While the rash may appear anywhere on the body, it often shows up at the beltline. As insistent ads warn us, if you ever had chickenpox, you are a candidate for shingles. The virus that causes chickenpox lurks for years in an inactive state. If it becomes active, it can cause the painful rash.

Shingle is also used to signify the start of one’s professional life, as in to hang out your shingle, a reference to a sign board advertising a business. Shingle is also a women’s hair style in which the hair is worn short. It’s also used as a humorous putdown, as in that guy’s a shingle short.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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