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Interesting and Notable Words and Phrases of the Slate Podcast Literati: September 30, 2009

Latest notable terms from today’s Slate Culture Gabfest (feel free to email me suggestions or leave them in the comments to the main page):

  • distaff [Leo Laporte, MacBreak Weekly]
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Janet October 3, 2009, 8:41 pm

    yeah, my suggestion and comment (one and the same) are that you’re a fat arrogant asshole.

  • Scott October 7, 2009, 1:44 pm

    What is particularly “interesting” or “notable” about the word distaff? Apparently, NSK is engaging in commentary without actually bothering to comment. This leaves the reader wondering why NSK bothered to note this word. (For that matter, it leaves the reader wondering why I bothered to look at this page of non-commenting commentary, much less why I bothered to comment about this page of non-commenting commentary.)

    For the non-historically-minded reader, a distaff is a staff on a loom. Before the industrial revolution, when cloth was made from hand looms, the husband worked one side of the loom, and the wife worked the other. On the wife’s side was the distaff. Hence, the “distaff side” of the loom was the side where the wife worked. It required more intricate activity, while the husband’s side required more brute force.

    As with so many words, distaff began to lose its denotation as its connotation broadened. Eventually, the meaning of distaff was broadened to mean not only the staff itself, and not only the wife’s side of the loom, but the woman’s portion of any shared task.

  • Stephan Kinsella October 7, 2009, 1:56 pm

    distaff is a word most people do not know. When it’s used the speaker is using a word …. why? to impress his audience? to intimidate them? to show off? to educate them? etc. I like to point out such words. I find it an interesting endeavor. I find your comment interesting. I find it interesting that I find it interesting. As the Chinese say, may you live in interesting times.

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