Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Of purlins, plinths and plenums...

There's a fun article over at the Boston Globe on 'not real words'. Slang has long been a part of language; it's part of how languages evolve. The writer's plea is for people to chillax (chill + relax) and not preface every usage with "I know it's not a real word...". I've worked with computers for a long time, and the tech industry is notorious for making up words, verbifying nouns, nounifying verbs and if all else fails, making a new acronym that worms its way into the language.

But even if you limit yourself to 'accepted' words, English is full of wonderful words. Two of my favorite word sites are WordSmith.Org, home of A.Word.A.Day, and The Word Detective, which is a fun place to learn about the origins of words and phrases, and embiggen your vocabularly while you're at it.

Like many fields, construction and architecture have their own vocabulary. Words like purlin, plinth and plenum. Or cricket, fenestration, clerestory and escutcheon. And they're not above genericizing words like skilsaw. So, dear readers and fellow home improvement bloggers, what are your favorite words from construction and architecture?


NV said...

One of my favorites is LEVEL. Not only is it a palindrome, which I adore, but it's also a word with very different meanings. You can level a building to knock it down or, you want to make sure the foundation IS level before you build on it! But the best word as it applies to any construction project is a very simple one: DONE!

tomas said...


Gene said...

I had to go look up guttae (singular: gutta), and thought you might be pulling some Swedish word on us, Tomas :-)

Level is a good one, as are its non-palindromic cousins, plumb and square. Can't (or well, shouldn't) build a house with out them!

oldmilwaukee said...

While you're having fun with words, timber framers try to avoid the condition known as having "pith in your relish".

Pith = the very center of the tree (weakest part of the timber)

Relish = the small portion of the tenon just beyond the peg.

Were the relish to give out, the peg would no longer keep the tenon from pulling out of the mortise. This is why we strive to avoid "pith in the relish." :)