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September 23, 2017  |  Friday words #89  |  3966 hit(s)

Equinox was a couple of days ago, meaning that up here in the northern hemisphere, today is shorter than yesterday, and tomorrow will be shorter yet. Best not to think about that, tho, and to think instead about words.

I ran across today’s new-to-me word on a social media feed and thought that it had to be something from The Onion. But no. The word is scrotox/scrotoxing, which refers to a botox treatment for that man’s special area that begins with scro. As with botox treatments elsewhere, this is done for, you know, aesthetic reasons. You can read more here, and if you're curious, you can see some before-n-after pictures (NSFW, right?).

I guess I'm old enough to remember when botoxing became a thing, and how very odd it seemed that people were deliberately being injected with a substance that was related to botulism. And then to do the same for a man's special area, whoo.

But I digress. Scrotox is of course a portmanteau: scrotum + botox. As has come up a few times here before, this is what various of us variously call a telescoping or recursive or second-order blend; botox is itself a portmanteau of botulin and toxin. (Gah. See preceding paragraph.)

The meaning of scrotox is pretty clear from the word itself, which per some researchers is a characteristic of a good blended word. If we want to go there, we can speculate how to create words to describe botox treatments for other body areas, and how effective those would be without the advantage of rhyme.

The unexpected etymology today came via my wife, who was reading a book that mentioned the origins of the word story to mean the floor of a building. ("A seven-story building," or in Britain, "a seven-storey building.") It turns out that the architectural sense is directly related to the sense of story as a narrative, who knew. Both senses derive from Latin historia, which of course gives us history.

In olden times, the outsides of buildings, especially churches, might be decorated in ways that suggested a narrative: sculptures, painted or stained windows, or paintings on the walls. This sense of a narrative story then became associated with the layer of the building where these stories were, and more generally, with building layers in general. A kind of self-conscious version of external narrative wall painting can be found in the German-speaking highlands of Europe, if you like that sort of thing:

This photo of Old Town Lucerne is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The overlap of story as a building floor and as a narrative gives extra resonance to the term second-story man as a term for a burglar. I think, anyway.

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