or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Speed Freak

I think this joke comes from Nicole Hollander's cartoon Sylvia:

"I live like I type: fast, and with a lot of mistakes."

Words to live by. But at least I know how to spell, and generally catch all the spelling errors as soon as I've committed them. The ones I do miss will usually show up underlined in red by the spellchecker (I invariably, and I mean absolutely every time and without fail, type "synthetic" as "synethtic"). Then I'll re-read what I've written, and re-read it again, and so I usually get all the mistakes. I hope.

Sometimes the spellchecker will surprise you by failing to flag a word that you typed by accident. I was writing an e-mail to a friend this morning and instead of "rule" typed "tule". And this was not underlined, which means the spellchecker thinks it's a proper word.

And it is! A fantastically useless word in my universe, but a word nonetheless. A tule is, according to the various dictionaries,

either of two large New World bulrushes (Scirpus californicus and S. acutus).

So there you go. Not many bulrushes in my part of the world, and if I do need to talk about them I generally just call them bulrushes, but maybe you can find some use for it.

The "bul-" in "bulrush", by the way, is the word "bull", also seen in such compounds as "bullfinch" and "bullfrog", in the sense of "large and ungainly". Or else it's from "bole", because of its thick stem like the bole or trunk of a tree. Nobody seems to know, so they're just guessing. (Even the OED presents both possibilities equally, and then goes on to say, "The suggestion 'pool-rush' is baseless", which means that even etymologists just make stuff up sometimes out of desperation.)


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