mildew

So much less refreshing than dew from the mill – in fact, the very utterance of this word may elicit a mild “ew!” in spite of its mellifluous form. It seems the echoes of mold in the onset, and especially in the common collocation, prevail. As does the awareness of the word’s object, of course. But are mold (a.k.a mould) and mildew related? Possibly – they may both come from the Indo-European base of, wait for it, meal. Eww! But it gets better: the more proximate meaning of the mil is a Germanic word for “honey.” And the dew is in fact the same as our modern English dew. So, wait, this is “honeydew”? The closest its object would normally come to that (as long as your fridge isn’t disgusting) would be an item on a “honeydew list”: “Honey, do the following, please: 1. Clean the mildew off the shower curtain. 2…” However, its original referent was a specific sweet, sticky substance on the leaves of diseased plants, and it just spread from there. So to speak. Other words that mildew is often found with: powdery, rot, smell, walls, and – of course – shower.

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