Daily Archives: September 17, 2012


Are you familiar with this word? If you are, then I know something about you. If you’re not, can you make a guess as to what it might refer to?

It’s not a very pleasant-looking word, I don’t think. Maybe this is because to me it looks like a popped blister. It also reminds me of keister (which means “buttocks”), cluster, and Listerine. And glister, as in all that glisters is not gold (yes, that’s the original). It has that klutzy Germanic kl at the start, so obtrusively blocky that you may not even notice at first that the rest of the word is like sister minus the first s. You’ll be busy rating its resemblance to strike, like, stickler, killdeer, and Rilke on a Likert scale of 1 to 5.

I also think klister unpleasant because it makes me think of clyster. A clyster is not like a shyster in a cloister; it’s rather more claustric. It’s a medication that you stick, um, up your keister, as it were – could be a suppository, but usually it’s liquid.

Gross? So is klister. But it’s unrelated. Whereas clyster comes from a Greek word for “rinsing out”, klister is from Norwegian for “paste”. But what sort of Norwegian paste-like thing would we be using where when?

Well, the thing I know about you if you know this word is that you’ve probably been cross-country skiing at least once – and likely more than that. Cross-country skis get waxed (they do sell skis that supposedly can do without it, I’m told, but I think wax will always help you – it’s been a while since I last went cross-country skiing). The kind of wax varies according to the temperature and snow conditions, from really hard stuff to fairly soft. And when the weather is really on the warm side and the snow is very soft, you don’t use sticks of wax, you use klister. Which is this gooey paste-like stuff. Kinda disgusting.

But not quite as disgusting as it sounds. I don’t think, anyway.