A rather hard- and bucolic-sounding word for something you may find caught on a bird-dog’s tail. The bur can make one think of a snagging plant, a Scottish accent or a chill lake; burd adds an avian echo; dock is the wood platform on a lake but it’s also chopping, cutting short – what one may do to a paycheck or a tail. Those who know it’s some sort of plant will get a sense of hickory or perhaps something medicinal like myrrh; it may sound like something the village wiccan keeps in her sack. It has three points sticking up, making it like a bed of needles; the different facings of the b, d and k can make it seem almost wily, watchful, like a meerkat triumvirate (or, more locally, prairie dogs looking up from the herb). The plant, in fact, has many of the characteristics the word may seem to suggest. It has a prickly, burry head, looking almost like a spiky brush-cut human head – and its root is used to help maintain and promote healthy hair growth. It is also used as a blood purifier. And it may show up in your sushi – or, in England, in your soft drink. The prickly head inspired the invention of Velcro. So where does the word come from? The mists of Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic languages. Bur is from a word meaning a ring or protective casing – in this case a rather prickly one. The dock refers to a whole family of plants of various names all containing dock; it is unrelated to wharves or short tails.
Be a patron!Support Sesquiotica and get extra premium content and goodies. Starts as low as $1 a month! Find out more and subscribe on Patreon.com
I am for hireI earn my living as an independent editor, writer, and educator. Find out more and contact me at jamesharbeck.com.
Buy the T-shirt (or coffee mug or hip flask)
Wear it proudly:
I operate on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis. I need to know EVERYTHING.
Buy it at cafepress.ca/sesquiphernalia
12 Gifts for Writers ebook – free download
Buy my books
Buy my books on Lulu.com:
- Confessions of a Word Lush (paperback)
- Confessions of a Word Lush (ebook)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (paperback)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (ebook)
- 12 Gifts for Writers (print edition)
You can also get them on Amazon.com. Please note that I make less than half as much per book if you buy them there, however.
Word Tasting Notes Google groupGet just the word tasting notes daily by email – join the Google Word Tasting Notes group.
- Coffice Space
- from the bookshelf
- language and linguistics
- new old words
- Poetry Minute and a Half
- pronunciation tips
- The Week
- Word Country
- word pictures
- word portraits
- word reviews
- word sommelier
- word tasting notes