Here’s a word that showed up unexpectedly in one of those Nigerian scam emails (it was used improperly as a past tense for “swing”). You’re unlikely to encounter it anywhere else, though, unless you’re in a blacksmith’s shop, say. It brings echoes of swing and wages and perhaps sway and, to look at it, swag – and, alas, sewage – but in pronunciation may assuage these with, well, assuage. If you’re looking for some hint of the sense in the letter forms, you’re in a little luck: the semicircular indents in the s and, arguably, the concavities in the w could be seen to represent the grooves in mouldings, and the semicircular dents in anvils and dies, that the noun refers to; the verb refers to the application of the latter, though there is another sense (even less used now) which is an alteration of assuage. The word comes from Old French souage and is cognate with modern French suage. But the only way the Nigerian email is likely to swage you is that you will, on discovering you have been beaten, get bent.

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