Daily Archives: October 17, 2008


From the earth to the sky and beyond: a word that begins with an inert hard lump of silicon and, boosted by two diminutive letters – and often brainpowered by myriad tiny silicon circuits – becomes a heaven-bound vessel. Mirror the last two letters onto the end again and you get a leg up. Attempts at onomatopoeic association would be off base unless the astronauts were toads. And the shape: do the three round letters remind one of rockets viewed from above or of the planets they are aimed to visit? Does the k seem vaguely gantry-like? But this word brings with it a galaxy of collocations and connotations. Red is a common colour, sometimes glaring, often associated with transportation. Speed is a must. British cooks’ minds may fly to arugula; ecclesiasts may have surplice thoughts. Those hearing it may think it an imperative to be applied to a boat, a cradle, a trailer, or various musical expressions (e.g., this town, inside out). And where does this word come from? Ironically for something that has long been associated with masculine bravado, it was first named (with an Italian word based on a Germanic one) for what it was shaped like: a little distaff.