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.

4 responses to “klister

  1. I find the word entertaining. For example one may not only fall on one’s keister, but perhaps slipe and slide on their “klister.”

  2. Love your writing but in this case you are wrong: nothing is more disgusting than klister. However the word does do an excellent job of desribing the properties of klister. Kl for cling, clutch or even kill. Isssster describes the sinister stretching,sticky,smelly substance that alternatingly stubbornly stubs or seeths forth from its tube. You may not like the word klister, but if you understood the word I think your writing would give the word the full measure it is due. You are from Banff and you don’t XC ski?

    • I learned XC skiing when I was a kid in Exshaw (all junior high students had to). I left it behind once I discovered we would have to deal with klister… also once I started downhill skiing. I’d take it up again but opportunities are few where I live now. Toronto rarely gets enough snow in the winter these days to give sufficient cover in the parks. Maybe up in Collingwood this winter… as a switch from paying for lift tickets at the local molehill. But only if I don’t have to deal with klister.

  3. Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike is less than an hour away from Toronto. Thousands of XC skiers in Toronto! Please go so this winter we may enjoy more of your musings about ski and snow words.

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