Daily Archives: January 5, 2013


Capsule notes:

Visual: descenders at beginning and end; downward points in middle and at end; e as second and second-last letter.

In the mouth: four phonemes; the consonants are on the lips (with the teeth on the second one) and the vowels are both /i/.

Etymology: named after the man credited with inventing it in the 1850s, Jospeh Peavey of Maine. The family name Peavey (also Peavy) is likely Anglo-Norman in origin and may come from Pavie or from Beauvoir.

Collocations: Peavey amplifier, Peavey Mart.

Overtones: the name Peavey is most commonly associated with electronic musical equipment, especially amplifiers. Peavey Mart is the name of a Western Canadian chain of hardware and farm equipment stores. Peavey also has echoes of peeve and related words, and, due to its pronunciation like P.V., of PVC, POV, and such like. It may also carry notes of levee and levy and navy and navvy and similar words.

Semantics: a lumberman’s tool for handling logs, for example in the stream; it has a wooden handle with a spike on the end and a hook curving around to form a sort of pincer grip with the spike. It is a variation on the tool called a cant hook or cant dog.

Full tasting:

In the January 2013 issue of National Geographic, I read the following on page 56: “the crucial physical culture of axes, adzes, pikes, and peaveys they used to build homes and harvest wood.” I do not recall ever having seen peavey used as a common noun before (though I may have seen it and forgotten it). Although I knew that it was obviously something useful in home construction or lumber handling, it wasn’t clear to me what it was – though once I looked it up, I discovered it was an implement I had certainly seen before. But that wasn’t the image that came to my mind first.

No, of course, the first thing I thought of was a musical amplifier. Now, those who have read my word tasting notes for a while may have a reliable impression of little discussion of lumber but a certain amount of discussion of music, and clear signs of a liking for heavy metal music (along with medieval music and numerous other genres, to be sure), even if it peeves my lovely wife. Perhaps you know that among rock musicians, axe (or ax) is a colloquialism for electric guitar. Now, adze and pike are not words I can recall seeing used in connection with rock musicianship (except in the name of the group The Northern Pikes), but on the other hand woodshedding is a term sometimes used to refer to intense solo practice on one’s instrument (figuratively going out to the woodshed to spend hours there perfecting technique). And I find it quite appealing to imagine an “axe” and a Peavey amplifier being essential equipment in building homes. Right now my mind is echoing with Starship: “We built this city on rock and roll.”

Of course I didn’t really think that the original colonists’ houses in Saguenay, Quebec – which is where author David Dobbs was writing about – were built on rock and roll. More likely cheese and maple syrup, two things I like possibly even more than rock and roll (especially when they’re from Quebec). But, not knowing what a peavey was at the time of reading, I wondered if it might be some kind of architectural or landscaping feature, like a levee, or some kind of wood joining or handling implement such as a plane. Surely something you could buy at a hardware or farm implement store. Naturally I made a note – a note to make a note amplifying the word.