Category Archives: word tasting notes

hopper

A hopper, of course, hops, just as a shopper shops and a chopper chops and a whopper… um, whops, I guess. And a bopper bops and a lopper lops and a popper pops and a topper tops and copper… oh. Whoops.

But then what does a whopper of a copper hopper do?

A hopper could, of course, be part of a rabbit response team. But in truth hoppers are not often seen to hop. A person who is a hopper is one who cutshops, as in the conical catkins that flavour beer, which have no relation (that we know of) to the action of hopping (aside from what you do while waiting for the washroom after a pint or two of IPA). And when they drop their plucked hops into a hopper that feeds into the machinery, that hopper probably doesn’t hop either.

There are quite a few people named Hopper too, generally of a Dutch or English heritage, sometimes Quakers. Some of them are famous.

There’s Dennis Hopper, who rode the roads with Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, a movie that seems such a paean to the free spirit that many people forget how it ends (I won’t spoil it altogether, but it is abrupt and not optimistic). He thereafter played a journalist in Apocalypse Now and a freestyle sadistic sociopath in Blue Velvet, plus various other characters, often villainous. And he was a photographer of note as well.

There’s Hedda Hopper, no relation, 1885 to 1966, first an actress, then a gossip columnist. She was, if I may blow right through my daily quota of understatement, not universally loved or universally lovable. Aw, hell, she was a hopper-full of hateful. For one thing, she was a driving force behind the Hollywood blacklist. But let’s focus on her name, which she was not born with. She landed on the planet as Elda Furry. She got her last name when she married DeWolf Hopper, an actor 27 years her senior. She was his fifth wife; his others had been Ella, Ida, Edna, and Nella, and he kept calling her the wrong name, so she switched to Hedda.

There’s DeWolf Hopper, born William D’Wolf Hopper, a six-foot-five stage presence who made the poem “Casey at the Bat” famous and otherwise had a perfectly fine career as an actor plus a hopper-full of wives, of which the sixth and last, by the way, was named Lillian.

And there’s Edward Hopper, who painted a hopper-full of paintings, though not hopeful ones. His most famous, Nighthawks, epitomizes his best-known art in showing the anomie of mid-century America. His canvases present cool, angular, empty spaces where, if there is more than one person present, they still do not talk to each other. That’s not to say he thought it a bad thing: as his wife once said (according to Sherry Maker’s biography of him), “Sometimes talking to Eddie is just like dropping a stone in a well, except that it doesn’t thump when it hits bottom.”

Like nearly all people, the above – and other well-known Hoppers – almost certainly hopped literally on occasion, and more figuratively from one event or engagement or oeuvre to another. They were also metaphorically hoppers of experience, as we all are, collecting at the top and draining through the funnel in the bottom.

But it does seem a bit strained, doesn’t it, to try to force the connection on them? I mean, a name is a name. Probably none of them ever picked hops, though some distant ancestor likely did. It’s just like hoppers, the collectors and drainers of particulate solids. They are typically fixed in place and unlikely to hop about. But the first ones, used in grinding-mills (for flour or cornmeal), did hop: they had a shaking motion, as reported by Chaucer (among others). Sort of as we do with salt and pepper shakers. Only these are not shakers, nor (unlike, for instance, DeWolf Hopper) are they Quakers; they are hoppers, even if they’ve stopped hopping.

bezelless

Alana doesn’t like this word, but I do.

What does it signify, bezelless? Is it a cross between a gazelle, a wildebeest, and a lioness? (No… and I’m not sure how that would work… sounds like a gory scene in the Okavango delta.) Is it a busy buzzy little demon, a minion of Beelzebub? (…n… …o…) Is it your friend’s German friend who joined you for the local Oktoberfest and was unimpressed? (Probably not… and that might seem a transgression of Gesellschaft.) Is it the word bevel as seen reflected in a pond with ripples from a dropped stone? (Well… maybe…)

What it is for sure is the kind of sports watch I prefer.

No, it’s not a brand. It’s just that I used to have a sports watch with an angled metal edge that was responsive to touch, but it was also responsive to any moisture that got on it, which made it pretty annoying under a great variety of sportsing circumstances. I got a new one without that angled metal edge and it’s waayyyyy better. Not just because it’s bezelless, but that sure helps.

Bezelless? Yeah. It doesn’t have that angled metal edge. Which is a bezel. A touch bezel, in this case. So it’s bezel-less because it has one less bezel than a watch that has one. Bezel-less? Bezelless.

Look, it looks cool, OK? Of course it’s open to misreading. I wouldn’t use bezelless if I were being paid. But I’ll use it for free!

A bezel is an angled edge, as on a chisel or a diamond; it’s like a bevel, and the word bezel is very much like the word bevel, but they’re not related. In fact, it’s not quite certain where bezel comes from. French, yes, and the modern equivalent in French is biseau. But before that? There are ideas. One is that it’s a variant of bijou, ‘jewel’, which in turn was quite possibly embezzled from Breton.

Oh, embezzled. That’s another similar and unrelated word. It’s formed from bezzle, a word we get from French and don’t use in raw form anymore, but it meant to abscond with a large quantity of property or especially food and drink. You know, to guzzle someone’s booze until you’re sozzled. Until “bezelless” is how you say business.

And regardless of embezzlement, that’s likely the only bezelless you’ll encounter in business, especially if Alana is editing. This word may be a diamond in the rough, but some kinds of writing need more polish… and less runaround or vexation for the reader.

krazy

Today I had to fix something that was cracked, so I used Krazy Glue. Which, depending on how you see it, is either ironic or apposite. Continue reading

boar

No matter where I see it, when, or how, this word will always make me think of Asterix and Obelix. Continue reading

Elvis

August 16, 1977. A summer day 42 years ago. The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was found dead in his bathroom. He was 42 years old. Continue reading

furchure

“Psst! Hey! Wanna fork?”

“Furchure!”

OK, you may not think that joke has legs, but the Dictionary of Archaic Words does. Look: it defines furchure as “The place where the thighs part; sometimes, the legs.” Continue reading

flexuous

Here’s a word that really flexes its sense. Flex what? U O U S – a set of curves countercurving, bending like barrels or ship bows, veering and careering like a river. It’s like a chart of a fluxus, deflecting and reflecting. Even your tongue, as it says it, rolls and laps like waves at the shore of your alveolar ridge. Continue reading