There's a Word for That

Carina has become highly interested in the Spanish language over the past month or so.  I thought it would be fun for her to read some books in Spanish, so we hit the library and picked up If You Give a Pig a Pancake in both English and Spanish. The Spanish title is Si Le Das un Panqueque a una Cerdita.  I thought it was funny that the Spanish word for pancake is panqueque.

Obviously, a pancake is called a pancake because you cook it in a pan.  So, the Spanish translation would make more sense if it was something like pastel (cake) de cacerola (pan) or something along those lines.  As it is, the direct translation of panqueque is Breadwhatwhat. I may be wrong, but I’m thinking that the word panqueque is the result of combining existing spanish words to make it sound similar to the American word, despite the words’ meanings.

But, before I turn into an ugly American, I should probably find out where pancakes come from.  A Google search for “who invented the pancake” returns various results that credit, among others, the dutch, the Romans, and Asians (using rice, of course).  By the way, Aunt Jemima’s pancake flour was the first ready-mix food to be sold commercially.  It was invented in St. Joseph, MO, according to  Holla to my home state.

Anyhow, the American version most likely originated from American Indians, who called it noekehick.  This was transmangled by the white settlers into “no cake”.  From there it mutated again to “hoe cake” and started being called pancake around the 1870s. ( Coincidentally, this is about the same time that cast-iron cookware became popular.

So, pancake is indeed a uniquely American word, and from what I can find online, panqueque is the spanish knock-off version.

Ta-da!  Your evening’s foreign language, American history, home economics, and children’s literature lessons all rolled into one!

The official Fall season is one week old today.  Even though the weather here in the south isn’t very Fall-like yet, there’s another way to tell that it’s Fall.

Squash.  I was given these beauties by the Hankins family.   They gave me even more, but I gave some to the neighbor. Luckily tomorrow is my turn to make the supper swap dinner.  Have you ever seen such huge zucchini?

In the midst of trying to figure out what to make from these, I started wondering how squash got it’s name.  I found the answer on the Everyday Mysteries website from the Library of Congress.  According to the site, “‘Squash’ comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means ‘eaten raw or uncooked.'” (Don’t worry, fellow supper swappers – I’ll be cooking our squash.) I also learned that squash is one of the oldest crops, dating back over 10,000 years; and that the first pumpkin pie was a hollowed out pumpkin filled with apples, spices, sugar, and milk. Hmmm….I think I know what I’m going to make tomorrow for supper!

And, if , like me, you are completely inept in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cutting and slicing things, my friend Kristen has a great vlog (that’s a video blog) post on How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash (without loosing a finger!).  Check it out.  I’ll try and find out where she got that mammoth vegetable peeler.

Remember that G Love song called Cold Beverage?  The refrain was, “Stick it in the fridge, stick it in the fridge, stick it in the fridge. Stick it in the fridge.”

So, how come the word fridge has a D in it when the word refrigerator does not?  (Even though I try to stick a d in refrigerator every time I type it.)

This is a word-related question that I couldn’t find a direct, definitely correct answer for.  What do you think?

Ok, I’m a day late, but that’s because the guys who are putting in our sprinkler system hacked right through my internet cable line yesterday.  For shame.  I was like a fish out of water.


A Twingle is a single child who is often mistaken for a twin, due to being close in age to a sibling with similar physical appearance.  So a twingle is always part of a pair of twingles.   My kids are indeed twingles.  The are 17 months apart in age, and look more like one another than they look like their parents.  We get asked all the time if they are twins (or people just assume) and have also been asked several times if we adopted our twins.  This phenomenon seems to be getting worse as Callen is starting to catch up to Carina in size.

So, there you have it.   Janet is the winner of the guess the definition contest.  If you recall, the prize was a twingle for a day.  So, Janet, which of my twingles would you like to have for the day?  Hahaha! How about I just buy you a drink sometime?

I did want to add that my favorite guess for the definition of twingle came from Janice, who thought a twingle is a cross between a twinkie and a bagel.  Very creative!

It’s been a while since we’ve done an “interactive” TWT, so here we go.

I made up a word today: Twingle.  Not like that time when I thought I made up the word momcation only to find out a year later that it is being used all over the place by moms with wanderlust.  No, this time, I really did make up a word.  Now, twingle is a homograph (remember that from last week’s TWT post?), so if you do a search online for “twingle”  you’ll get results, but that twingle has a different definition.  No, this twingle is all mine.  My very own word.  I’m twingle’s mama.

So, now the interactive part:  What is the definition of twingle?  (not that other twingle. MY twingle.)  Leave a comment with what you think the definition of twingle is.  Closest to correct wins a twingle for a day.  No kidding.  Winner (and definition) revealed next week.

Goodnight and Good luck.

A few weeks back, my friend Stephanie sent me this message:

“Why are there so many words with multiple, seemingly unrelated meanings? For example, a litter can mean newborn animals, trash or to leave trash lying about, AND a basket used in rescues. None of those seem related at all.”

Steph is a teacher, so she probably already knows that the word “litter” is a homonym.  You probably learned about it in English class, but your brain has since flushed that fact to make room for other more pertinent things.  Homonyms are words that sound the same, but have different meanings.  Litter is also a homograph. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have multiple meanings. There are also heteronyms, which are words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently and have different meanings.  And finally, there are homophones, which sound alike but have different meanings and spellings.   I know, it’s hard to keep those ‘nyms  and homos straight.

Ok, back to Stephanie’s original query.  The English language and the development thereof is a very tangled web, but usually if you go way back, you can find a common thread.  I looked through the originations of the word litter, and found this article that said that there was an Indo-European word, legh, that meant to lie down.  From there came the Latin word lectus, which meant bed.  The French turned lectus into litere and then lit.  Around 1300, the English word for bed, litter, was born.  So, the connection to litter as a rescue basket is pretty straight-forward.  Animals that are all born at the same time (in one bed together) are called a litter.  Before people had mattresses, their bed was straw.   This is where the trash type of the word litter comes from – referring to a collection of small items on the ground.

So, there is some reason behind our crazy, ever-evolving language.  Thanks, Steph, for this little exercise.

Anyone else have any ideas for a “There’s a Word for That” post?

  • Catch-22
  • Stuck between a rock and a hard place
  • Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

All three of these sayings mean roughly the same thing, but while the second two are fairly straight forward in their meaning, a Catch-22 doesn’t really explain itself well.  Craig suggested “Catch-22” for a TWT post.

Catch-22 is relatively young for a saying or phrase.  It was born in 1961 as the title of a book by Joseph Heller.  Catch-22 is the term Heller coined to invoke military bureaucracy.  The number 22 was chosen simply because it sounded nice. It is used multiple times in the novel when characters are grappling with circular logic.  The main focus of Catch-22 (the novel) is the dilemma of WWII fighter pilots who wish to be grounded from combat missions on the basis of insanity, but the fact that these pilots ask to be grounded proves that they are sane, as only a crazy person would want to fly combat missions.

So, essentially, a Catch-22 is a situation in which the solution to a problem causes the problem to repeat itself, or a situation in which you know something negative is going to happen, but you have no control over preventing it.

Have you ever been in a Catch-22?

Do you have a term or phrase that you coined yourself?

Guess what Hibiscus plants and S’mores have in common?

No really, guess.


What?  Oh, yes!  Of course, I will explain, in 200 words or less.  You see, in one of my recent posts, I misspelled the word marshmallow. After being corrected by my friend Janet, I went to fix it, and got to wondering why it’s spelled “mallow” instead of “mellow”.

Marsh Mallow, Rose Mallow - Latin: Hibiscus moscheutos | Photo credit: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Although the legend varies, the rough basics of it is that there was a dessert made from the root of a marsh mallow plant that was fluffy, and that when the plant root was replaced by a man-made syrup as an ingredient, the dessert also morphed into today’s sugar-on-sugar puffy treat, the marshmallow.  Another version of the story claims that the confection we know as a marshmallow resembles the flower of the marsh mallow plant.

The marsh mallow plant, by the way, is a member of the Hibiscus family. And we all know that marshmallows are members of the s’mores trifecta, along with graham and chocolate.

Muggy, Muggy, Muggy.  It’s one of those words that’s just fun to say.  Except when the air around you is muggy, and then you don’t want to have to breathe in enough air to say anything.  It’s starting to get that way around here. We finally broke down and turned on the AC this evening.

So, I always thought that muggy was a slangy-type term.  Turns out, I was wrong.  Muggy is defined in all the various dictionaries with only one definition: damp, humid, and close.  The word Muggy is believed to have originated in the 1700’s, stemming from an old norse word, mugen, which means mist. So, “Muggy” is an official, technical term.

(Strangely enough, an image search for “muggy” will give you pictures of teddy bears, remote control cars, and a girl in a white dress being sprayed with water. I decided to do without an image for this post.)

The other thing that I started wondering about while doing my muggy research is whether the term for getting your wallet/purse taken away from you, mugged, is somehow related to muggy.  But, that’s a whole ‘nother post…

Dasani is a brand of water bottled by Coca-Cola.  I did a little research into the origins of the word Dasani and found that it originates from the Coca-Cola marketing team. There is no definition for it, although one exec tried to insinuate that the word Dasani conjured a “Roman God of Water”.

For me, though, Dasani conjures visions of home, of my kids playing in the bathtub, of my sweaty yard man (hubby) drinking from the water hose, and even, *gasp* of me doing the dishes. You see, Dasani is bottled here in Little Rock.  From tap water.  Sure, they filter it (so do I, with a Brita pitcher), and they add some salt and potassium chloride (you know, the stuff in the chemical cocktail used for lethal injections) to it for taste, but it’s essentially bottled tap water, bargain priced at $1.50 per 20 ounces. So, it’s not quite champagne, but if I want to get my yuppie on, I can boast that I bathe my children and wash my dishes in Dasani (without the salt and the criminal-killer).

On the other hand, on the rare occasion when I am caught somewhere without my reusable water bottle or with a whiny, thirsty child with no sippy cup, I feel like a hypocrite buying a blue-labeled bottle.  As soon as I open the cooler, I know there’s a big blue light flashing above my head as I make my way to the checkout and the PA blares the announcement “Attention shoppers, we have a compromised tree-hugger making her way to checkout number seven!” But I still have to do it sometimes.

Can you find your favorite brand?

So, my point here, mostly, is that the word Dasani is about as valuable as the product it’s stamped on: a definition-less word for a re-styled, up-saled product, as are MANY of the bottled waters you find on store shelves.  So, think twice before you reach for that fancy bottled water.

Also, my blue “compromised tree-hugger” light will go off again if I don’t point out the other problem with bottled water.  I know you already know what it is, but I have to say it anyway.  Americans alone throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.  If you like water on the go, get your own container and use it, use it, use it, but don’t throw it away.  In fact, if you’re hell-bent on supporting the local (Arkansas) contained water industry, I’ll recommend CynerGreen: a local, family run company whose mission is “saving the world, one bottle at a time.” In the long run, it’ll save you money and it’ll save your kids from having to live amidst heaps of plastic.

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