or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, February 13, 2012


There are websites for every sort of person on earth, and therefore there are websites for men who are obsessed with the perfect shave, an obsession I do not share: wet it down, soap it up and carve it off, that's what I say.

However, I will also say this: a decent shave cream and a shaving brush make the difference between a mere shave and a really good shave. When I visited my mother after my stepfather died last October, she tried so hard to get me to take things of his home with me that she actually offered me another suitcase to put it all in. I declined, but I did take some things home with me, some shirts and ties and belts, mostly, along with five tubes of shave cream (he, being German, was partial to the European brands Kaloderma and Kappus) and two (unused) boar shaving brushes. I have always been one of those men who shaves his face in the shower, because letting the hot water soften your bristlage makes carving through the stubble a lot easier (and my beard hair is like copper wire in every way except in being a good conductor of electricity, as far as I know), and I have long been in the habit of just using shower gel or shampoo to lubricate the process. But using a pencil-eraser-sized squeeze of good shaving cream and a brush to whirl it into a dense, close foam makes for a terrifically smooth and comfortable shave. I'm a convert.

Jim likes to drink Numi Desert Dry Lime tea, which is more accurately a tisane (since it contains no actual tea leaves), or, if you like the company's term, a "teasan", which I think a hideous neologism. He orders it from Well.ca, which offers free shipping, and on his last order he tossed in a tube of Alba Coconut Lime shave cream, because he already uses a coconut-and-lime shower gel and thought it sounded nice (and if you knew him and his nose you would understand that for him to say that anything smells nice is a rarity).

The product's page contains a nice uncommon word: see if you can figure out what it might mean.

1) Certified by Quality Assurance International
2) Certified by Oregon Tilth

"Tilth". Pleasantly old-fashioned, isn't it?

English contains a fair number of words that end in "-th", some four hundred or so, but only a few are nouns constructed from an existing word plus that suffix. You can probably call most of them to mind easily: width and breadth and length and depth, obviously, plus wealth and health and strength, growth, dearth, stealth, and also truth and therefore the uncommon troth and the rare but valid trowth, and the ruth of ruthless. ("Wealth" is the exception in that list: it's formed from a noun, "weal", where the others are from verbs or adjectives.) There are surely a few others that I've missed, but you get the idea.

"Tilth" is one of these words, formed from "till", and therefore it is identical to "tillage" (which is to say the preparation of soil for agricultural purposes), but there's always room in English for a multiplicity of words with identical meanings.

While I was looking up shave creams, I also saw a listing for something that many men are familiar with: a styptic pencil, used to stanch bleeding. (My father had one in the medicine cabinet, but mostly he just used little torn-off fragments of toilet paper., Me, I don't bleed when I shave.)"Styptic" is one of those pleasant words that you can look at and instantly know which language gave it to English. It has to be, it can only be, from Greek. It is from "styphein", "to constrict", and if "styphein" gave English so much as one other word, I can't find it. One's enough, though, isn't it?


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