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August 05, 2016  |  Friday words, 2016-08-05  |  5119 hit(s)

Friday again! I had to skip last week because I took a wee trip to Canadia to drop my bride at the Vancouver (BC) airport.[1] So today I'm just going to have to have to compensate with Extra Words.

The first new-to-me term this week (er, fortnight) is faxlore and a related term xeroxlore, which I got from the linguist Gretchen McCulloch (again). These refer to stuff—jokes, cartoons, funny stories, etc.—that are (were) distributed via fax machine and photocopiers, respectively. (I like this in the Wikipedia article: "compare samizdat in Soviet-bloc countries.") Obviously, these aren't yugely useful terms anymore, but I think the reason I seized on them was precisely that I am old enough to be able to remember faxlore and xeroxlore examples taped to colleagues' office doors or pinned to cubicles, and can remember the smeary look of a cartoon that had been copied from a copy of a copy. And! I lived through the transition when the exact same material stopped being sent around in hardcopy, so to speak, and started circulating as emails. Exact same.

Prototypical faxlore cartoon

Number 2 new-to-me word this week (er, fortnight) is depave. The literal meaning of this word is obvious: to remove concrete and asphalt. But I was interested in its use as the name of a movement that promotes this practice both for aesthetic reasons and for the practical benefit that it helps alleviate problems with runoff and flooding. The term made me think of the kind-of similar term daylighting to refer to uncovering streams and creeks that had been buried by urban development.

Busily depaving

Spring and summer in Seattle were (are) perfect this year, and our fruit trees have produced vast quantities of blueberries, apples, and pears. This has led me to this week's surprising-to-me etymology: bumper crop, where bumper means "abundant." In this collocation, bumper is used an adjective, which is pretty rare. (In fact, it's possible (?) that bumper crop is what someone has referred to as a stormy petrel, a phrase in which one of the terms—here, bumper—doesn't appear without the other one. Only CROPS can be BUMPER, to phrase it their way.)

Anyway, how did bumper come to mean "abundant"? Well, bumper is also an old (obsolete?) noun referring to something unusually large ("Cf. whopper," sayeth the OED), and to a vessel filled to the brim, where "vessel" here can even mean a crowded theater. This sense of the noun goes back as far as the 1600s. A related verb to bumper means "to fill up." But where did that sense come from? Well, bump might have originally meant to hit hard, which led to swelling or bulging, which led to the sense of fullness. And if I try to eat all of this fruit, I, too, shall experience a sense of fullness.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[1] That might seem weird, but Seattle-type folks know that when heading to Europe, flying out of Vancouver can be substantially cheaper. Border crossings, such an experience!