Tag Archives: word tasting notes


It is an event as yet periodic, though not infrequent, that the weather turns… theriodic. There is a tempest to suit the temperature of the times and tides. It may be Hobbesian – nasty, brutish, and short – and it may be scenic, but it is vicious while it lasts.

This afternoon, for example, I was seated working at a table under an expansive overhang, several metres from the edge, and when the foretold rain began I was not disturbed. And then there was a bit of breeze from behind, causing a minor mist onto my screen, so I closed the computer and put it away in my backpack for the time being and resolved to wait out the weather. And then, within a span of seconds, the patio became a scene from a sea storm: the wind increased to a gale force, hosing down the environs, blowing folding metal chairs and signs and nearly tipping heavy tables, and chasing me and my backpack inside, where I watched with moistened amusement. Ten minutes later it abated, but there was no dry place left to sit. It was as though a herd of water buffalo – by which I mean buffalo made of water – had stampeded through.

Meanwhile, in Death Valley, temperatures hit a record high. But at least it was dry. Nonetheless, that weather too is, in its way, theriodic.

Theriodic is not a word exclusively or even mainly for weather, though it certainly serves the turn. It’s more often medical in use when it’s used at all, and in that context it means ‘malignant’ or, I suppose, ‘fulminating’. The root gives you the clue: theriodic is taken from Greek θηριωδία theriodia, which means ‘brutality’ or ‘savagery’ and in turn comes from θηρίον therion ‘wild beast’ (though it has nothing to do with the lion nor, on the other hand, with Charlize Theron). That same ther- shows up here and there, like in theriomorph and anoplothere.

So, in other words, what is theriodic is like a wild animal – whether it be one that stalks you and abruptly craunches and devours you or one that by mischance has gotten trapped in a minivan and tears the interior to ribbons and bits – and when faced with theriodic weather or other affliction, it is best not to dither, lest the next threnody be for you (or your electronic devices).


Look at the large barge, sarge! Who’s in charge of the large barge? And what’s that sparged on its marge? Is that parge? Is it going to Canada Cement Lafarge?

Barges get a bad rep, but flat-bottomed boats make the world go ’round. Or anyway they make stuff go ’round the world. It’s known that to succeed in logistics you have to be a bit anal-retentive, but for many times and places (and sometimes still) you also have had to be canal-retentive. Many things are moved more smoothly over water than over land, especially because you can fit much bigger loads on a floating vessel than on anything that has to navigate road or rail. Take as example the construction materials and equipment I see cruising into the eastern entrance to Toronto Harbour nearly every early evening.


Should I say “barging into”? Well, it is a barge, being pushed by a… hmm, it’s not tugging, so it’s not a tugboat… well, a pusher boat, OK? But it’s where it’s supposed to be. Not like some personal sport watercraft ripping into the picture.

Does that seem fair? That if I’m taking a picture of a barge that I fully expected to be at that place at that time, and a Sea-Doo or whatever tears across in front of it, the interloper is said to be “barging in” while the barge is being all polite and invited? Why does a barjaun “barge on,” anyway?

Well, before there was barging in there was barging around and barging along and barging through, and barging into or barging against someone or something, and the sense was of bumping, of being big and heavy and inertious and unbrakeable just like a fully laden barge. Perhaps the kind of cad or bounder that a less bumptious person wouldn’t want to touch with a bargepole… which, by the way, is literally a pole used for keeping smaller canal barges from touching other barges or the shore or whatever (and occasionally for propelling barges, though really human musclepower is mostly not up to the task).

Where did this word barge come from? French, of course, like the other words ending in -arge, and French got all of them from Latin. But this ­-arge has a lot of cargo of many sorts from various origins: while large comes from Latin larga, and marge (as in margin) from margo, charge comes from carricare (cargo is descended from that too, but charge didn’t come by way of cargo), and sarge is short for sergeant, which French made from Latin servientem – that g just kinda… pushed its way in (it’s not the only time a “w” sound has been changed to or from a “g” sound). And while sparge comes from spargo, parge comes from French porjeter, from Latin porro plus jactare. There’s also litharge, via Latin lithargyrus from for ‘silver stone’, and targe from Latin targa, from a Germanic word – look them up if you’re curious. The name Marge takes us back to Latin Margarita, which in turn came from farther east. As for Lafarge, the name of a large cement company that does have a small facility in Toronto’s docklands, well, that’s a variant of La Forge, and forge traces to fabrica, because, well, why the heck not.

As to barge, it came by way of barga from late Latin barca (also the source of barque but not of bark), from earlier Latin baris, ultimately by way of Greek and Coptic from Egyptian (you can see the hieroglyphics on Wiktionary). All the way back, it’s all words for boats of various kinds. And there are still various kinds of vessels called barge, including ones that can be wind- or self-propelled, even big glamour boats for royalty rowed by peons. But mainly, these days, a barge is a big floating cargo platform. And regardless of where it comes from, when it’s loaded up, it goes where it’s going and will not be quickly diverted.


To bedog or not to bedog? Or to be a bedog?

Not to be doggèd about it, but this is a word that seems to shift to suit – you or it, we’re not sure. It’s sort of like a big dog that you can lie on – or that can lie on you. Or that can follow you, or you can follow it. Or maybe you are the dog, and the dog is you.

Here’s what this is all about. The first time I can think of seeing the word bedog, it was in a sense that (I now know) is not at all the dictionary sense, and I can tell you it did not lie easy on me, or I on it. It was in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel The Dosadi Experiment, wherein a bedog is a bed that’s a dog, or a dog that’s a bed. It’s a big furry critter than you can sleep on and that is docile and very happy with the arrangement:

McKie stretched his arms high over his head, twisted his blocky torso. The bedog rippled with pleasure at his movements. He whistled softly and suffered the kindling of morning light as the apartment’s window controls responded. A yawn stretched his mouth. He slid from the bedog and padded across to the window.


Jedrik moved softly with her own preparations, straightened the bedog and caressed its resilient surface.

Of course, this means that this bedog is pronounced like “bed dog” but with only one “d,” and I am not comfortable with that. Even if you degeminate the [dd] you should, in English orthography, write it as dd (which we would usually say as just “d” anyway) because otherwise the e becomes “long.”

Which, in the real-world version, it is. Because bedog is really the verb dog (formed from the noun dog, of course) plus the prefix be, as in befall, bemoan, benight, bewitch, bedaub, become, believe, behave (yes, of course behave is beplus have; it’s just travelled a long way since the joining), and many others. But that be can be many things, as it happens, as is evidenced by the different definitions of bedog. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the options as “To call ‘dog’” (so “I bedogged him” means ‘I called him a dog’) and “To follow about like a dog, to dog” (which also means that to bedog can be to be doggèd) with the addition of bedogged meaning “Become like a dog.” Wiktionary, for its parts, gives us “to refer to or treat like a dog; (by extension) to follow like a dog, harass, torment; bully” and “to become or behave as a dog.” And Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is succinct but in line with Oxford: “to call (a person) a dog” (meaning you can’t bedog a dog, because that dog do be a dog and if you do be dog you do not be bedogged) and “dog vt” (i.e., the transitive verb dog, as opposed to “dog, VT,” which is a dog in Vermont).

So. To debog this:  You can bedog someone else by calling them a dog or by dogging them (which means acting like a dog in their direction, generally), or, supposedly, you can bedog and just, you know, be a dog. (However, the quotations in Wiktionary in support of that latter sense do not support it: “That envy, malice, and hatred bedogged his steps” is clearly the first sense, and “So they went to sleep like a pair of chain gangers, and bedogged if during the night Rose didn’t get up and start for the bathroom, and down she went” is equally clearly using bedogged like doggone or any less canine and less polite turn of speech involving g with b and/or d.)

And can you be bedogged by a dog? Seems redundant, dunnit. But can you be bedogged by a dog star? Hmm, is that serious? Ha, it’s Sirius. We are in the dog days, and the heat is both canine and incandescent. So if you don’t want to be bedogged, beware of updog.


What would we call a model for society that considered its most important aspect to be care and compassion for others rather than the opportunity to take as much as possible for oneself? A model that started with the genuine assumption that it’s worth helping and taking care of each other, and that by making sure to contribute well to our common good we will truly raise the tide and lift all boats, without worrying about making sure that the ones we think don’t deserve it don’t get lifted, and rather than thinking that if a few people can build yachts with decks high above the rest the tide will follow?

Does this sound like something reds and fellow-travellers would say? Well, it is what we can call fellowred, but it has nothing in specific to do with communism. It’s just an attitude of mutual respect, friendship, comity…

I mean, we ought to have a more common word than fellowred for just this kind of thing, and we do, but we don’t, because the sense of that word has shifted: for many people, fellowship has taken on a distinct religious, especially Christian (and perhaps in particular Evangelical), air; in academic contexts, it has a particularly pecuniary air; in some other contexts, it has a Tolkienian air, as in The Fellowship of the Ring. But in general it gives an feeling of a coterie, a chosen few, rather than a broader sense of an attitude or society.

We also have the word companionship, but these days that mainly seems to refer to a Platonic (or not) relationship with a specific other person with the end of not being lonely. And we have comradeship, which is not bad, but may imply tighter ties that bind.

So. There’s fellowred, which is fellow plus red, not as in the colour but as in kindred (and hatred): an old suffix seldom seen now, forming nouns of condition or quality. Fellowred hasn’t been used much in the past half millennium, but, then, we haven’t always focused as much on what it names as we should have, either.

By the way, in spite of collocations such as fellow man and common uses to mean ‘guy’, ‘dude’, ‘bloke’, etc., fellow is not originally or intrinsically masculine. It comes from an old Scandinavian root meaning ‘partner, business associate, companion, comrade, spouse, collaborator, ally’, and that’s what it came into English meaning and still, in many uses, means. So although it has long had some specifically masculine uses, there remain many senses that haven’t become gender-specific (the academic sense comes right to mind again).

And so we can, if we want, talk of doing things not for profit or for the team or for spite or for #winning, but for fellowred. Because, to lightly paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, there’s only one rule I know of: you’ve got to be kind.


When you feel you’re slipping into sub-sanity at the basic buffoonery, unsubstantiated transubstantiation of pumpkins into pantocrators (apocolocyntosis), and far too much of the tail wagging the dog, sometimes the only riposte is to be waggish: to deride the pale rider, to dump Humpty, to subsannate the saboteurs.

I promise you I am not taking the piss (so to speak): I have not made this word up. But you won’t find it often in modern texts; it has slipped into desuetude. Which is a pity, because we still have use for it – or at least for the act it names. But come, follow me as I trace this carbuncle up from the mines of ancient time.

In Ancient Greek, there was a word σαίνειν sainein, meaning ‘wag the tail’ or, figuratively, ‘fawn [over someone]’. Be a happy puppy for a person, in other words. We don’t really know where this word came from, but I’m sure it was nice, wherever it was.

Anyway, σαίνειν was adapted into the noun σάννας sannas, which meant ‘clown’ or ‘buffoon’ (I guess they quickly smoked out the sycophants). That noun in turn got grabbed into Latin as sanna to mean ‘mocking grimace’ – the sort of thing I usually call ‘a sneer’, though I suppose they may have done it differently at the time; different cultures have different mocking faces.

That Latin noun then, with the addition of sub (‘under’), got converted to the verb subsannare, ‘sneer, mock, deride’. And from that came a whole set of English words: not just subsannate but subsannation, subsannator, and – in at least one text – a more lace-at-the-throat version of the verb: subsanne.

And, yes, subsannate means ‘mock, deride’ – in particular with an implication of a mean face: as Thomas Blount’s 1656 dictionary Glossographia puts it, “to scorn or mock with bending the Brows, or snuffing up the nose.”

Oh, with BeNdiNg tHe bRoWs or snUfFinG uP tHe NoSe. Huh. Funny way you have of expressing mockery, mister Blount. Well, you do you.

And to all the other Dumpty Pumpkins out there: I subsannate you too. And not just in your general direction, either.


A muskellunge walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Why the long face?” The muskie says “Because you guys messed up my name!” The bartender ducks below the counter because it’s about to get ugly.

Some people have heard of a muskellunge, or at least have heard of it by the name muskie. Others have not, or at least not until they had a muskie lunge at them. Or more likely read a story about someone who had a muskellunge lunge at them.

Muskellunge do lunge muscularly! They’re ambush predators. But they rarely attack people. Not never, but not often. They prefer smaller things: muskrats, rats, frogs, ducks, and other fish.

Oh, yes, a muskellunge is a fish. It’s a popular sport fish, owing to the fact that they’re big enough to do some damage: typically two to four feet long (in 2000, someone caught one weighing more than 60 pounds – nearly 28 kilograms – in Georgian Bay). They live mostly in the Great Lakes area of North America, though they have been introduced to some other parts of the continent for the entertainment of the rod-and-reel set.

A muskie is like a northern pike – a big, ugly one. In fact, that’s how it got its name (nothing to do with lunging at muskrats). In English we now say the name as three syllables (or two, if you just say muskie), but it used to be four; we got it from French masque allongé, which means ‘long face’ (see joke above). But…

masque allongé is an eggcorn, like sparrowgrass for asparagus: it’s a reconstrual of a word as something made of more recognizable bits. The word entered French as manskinongé. It came from Ojibwe ma:škino:še: (also spelled maashkinoozhe), from ma:š ‘ugly’ and kino:še:northern pike’.

Apparently the dark bodies with light markings that real northern pike have are prettier than the silver, brown, or green bodies with stripes and spots that muskellunge present. But I wouldn’t say so in front of one of them.


The word cancel can make people cross – or at least crabby. It can seem to bespeak censorship and social incarceration. But it’s been in circulation for a long time and comes from an even longer and larger line of words, and while etymology does not reign over current usage, I think a few of cancel’s siblings and cousins can help us get to the crux of the matter.

Our English verb cancel comes from Anglo-Norman canceler, ‘cross out’, ultimately from Latin cancellus ‘railing or lattice’, because at first cancel referred to crossing something out by drawing not just one line or a scribble on it but a whole lattice of lines. But that Latin cancellus has other progeny. It (or in some cases its plural, cancelli) referred to a barred door, as well as to a barred railing dividing two spaces. The ‘barred railing’ sense gave us a word for a part of a church on the far side of a dividing screen or railing, the part the priest and other ecclesiastical authorities would occupy: the chancel. The ‘barred door’ sense gave us a word for someone who at first was a gatekeeper, someone who was at the screen between the public and a judge, censor, or other official, for instance; over time it gained in stature to refer to a high appointed official or executive: a chancellor.

And where did cancellus come from? It’s the diminutive form of cancer, which, aside from naming a nasty disease, is also the Latin for ‘crab’ (as astrologists will know), and it also meant ‘lattice, grid, barrier’. The disease was named after the crab (due to the appearance of certain tumours). But how do you get from a crab to a barrier? You don’t; you go the other way. The crab got this name because of the circular enclosure its pincers make. Cancer comes from Proto-Italic *karkros, ‘enclosure’, and is a doublet (meaning they were originally the same word, like person and parson or vermin and varmint) of carcer.

Carcer? If you’re thinking right away of incarcerate, you got it in one: our carceral words for prison and similar enclosures are long-lost twins of our words for crabs, tumours, barriers, high officials, and obliteration or discontinuation.

But wait, there’s more. Cancer and carcer both come from a Proto-Indo-European root *kr-kr- having to do with circles and enclosures that is the source of words such as circus, circle, circulation, crux, cross, curve, and crisp. And because *kr-kr- is in turn from *(s)ker- meaning ‘bend’, all of these words are also cousins of other words descended from that root, such as corona, crown, shrine, and even ring.

That took a few turns, didn’t it? But I’d like to draw on the connection between cancel and chancellor just to underline (rather than cross out) an important fact about cancelling: like censorship, it can only be executed by someone who has the authority or power. If you are the official gatekeeper, you can cancel: if you are the postmaster, you can cancel a stamp; if you are the TV network boss, you can cancel a show; if you are the owner of a newspaper (or someone with similar power over it), you can cancel an edition or even the whole newspaper. But if you are an ordinary person, the most you can actually cancel is your own subscription. You don’t end the circulation of the newspaper everywhere; you just end your involvement in its circulation. That said, if you and a lot of other people cancel your subscriptions, the people who do have discretionary power over the newspaper may cancel it – or they may remove the factor (e.g., an author) who is the reason you all have given for cancelling your subscriptions. But that’s not quite the same as you actually cancelling the newspaper or author; you just exerted pressure, which in this case (as not always) was responded to.

Cancelled, of course, is now sometimes used to refer to an attitude towards a person when something unlikeable is discovered about them. Fans may find that the star has views they don’t subscribe to, so the fans decide no longer to underwrite the star (subscribe is from Latin for ‘underwrite’; originally it meant exactly the same thing, and still typically has an aspect of fiscal support). But any one person or group of people can’t end all of a person’s circulation (fame, discussion, purchase of works, existence as a human being on the face of the planet); they can only end their own involvement in it. And that involvement is not unlimited in scope.

So, to get to the crux of the matter, if many of the fans of a person decide they no longer want to support and give their money to that person, they may say the person is “cancelled,” but this is like cancelling a newspaper subscription, not like cancelling a TV show or a stamp. The person still walks, talks, and writes, and probably still has a relatively large audience – they may even be getting paid handsomely to give their opinion to an audience of millions on how bad being “cancelled” is. But even famous people don’t have a right to require people to listen to them or pay them. If they have offended enough of their audience – or enough powerful people – that someone who does have the power to cancel their TV show or book or whatever chooses to do so, even then they are generally in no worse circumstance than millions of other people, and they probably have much more money and property than most.

In other words, since cancel is often used as an expression of dislike and withdrawal on the one side and upset about being disliked and withdrawn from on the other, much use of cancel these days is less about being barred (or barring) – let alone about incarceration – and more about circulation, subscription, and crabbiness. And that’s not really a new phenomenon. It’s just another manifestation of the old truism: What goes around comes around.

andor, tai

In English, we have a bit of a disjunction in our conjunctions. We can navigate them in speech, but in writing we have a problem. Consider this sentence:

Do you want food or drink?

In speaking, there are two ways we can say it, and the meaning is distinct:

Do you want food or drink [even tone until “drink,” then rising]?

Do you want food [rising tone] [slight pause] or drink [falling tone]?

With the first one, it’s understood that you might want both food and drink (or you could say “neither” or “no thanks”). With the second, the implication is that you can have one or the other, but not both (and it’s assumed you’re going to have one of them).

But when you get into writing, you can’t make that distinction. And when it’s formal writing and ambiguity is a bad thing – especially if it’s a context where lawyers might be involved if things get awkward – the “both” option can’t necessarily be taken as implied:

Offer the participants food or drink.

Crumpets are available with butter or honey.

Imagine if I were in some tea room (probably, by the look of the text, one run by a disgruntled former office manager) and I saw that second sentence and I said “I would like a crumpet with butter and honey.” Imagine the server said “Can’t you read? One or the other.” Imagine I were a lawyer. Do you think I’d be able to argue that I should be able to have both?

Admittedly, there are many instances where an “or” is not problematic. But take it from a guy who’s worked on millions of words of information about human health and its care and treatment: sometimes you really need to be clear about this kind of thing. There’s a reason that the usage and/or has burbled up into the written language.

There’s also a reason that many style guides tell you to avoid it and many editors will, on seeing it, sneeze and swat half of it away, leaving either and or or. It’s ugly, it seems inelegant, it’s often unnecessary, and there’s a slash in the middle of it.

So what do we do?

Well, I mean, I know what we generally do. It prevails because people like it and it makes them feel safe, and meanwhile other people do their best to get rid of it wherever they see it in the same way as they get rid of irregardless: with a shiver. It becomes a make-work project for text workers.

But look. I’m an editor but I’m also a linguist. And I’m the kind of editor working on the kind of stuff where having and/or is sometimes very useful. So here’s the thing: what do you do when you see “and/or” on a page and you have to read it out loud?

You say “and or,” don’t you? Or, really, “andor”?

I propose that we just run up the white flag and get rid of the slash (slashes are for fan fiction anyway) and make it andor. Hey presto, it’s one word!

But I know that not everyone will like that. I know that some people will see in andor what Swedish speakers see in ändor (which is Swedish for ‘behinds’ or ‘ends’): a bummer. So if you don’t like ends, let me suggest some Finnish: tai.

Finnish has two words for ‘or’: vai and tai. Guess what the distinction between them is.

Yes, it’s this: where we say “Do you want food or drink” and mean “but not both,” it uses vai: “Haluatko ruokaa vai juomaa?”; where we say it and mean “Do you want food andor drink,” it uses tai: “Haluatko ruokaa tai juomaa?”

Isn’t that handy? Now, I know that it’s uncommon for grammatical particles to be borrowed from other languages, but it’s not altogether unheard of. And while it may seem a weakness that tai sounds like “tie,” I see it as an asset: if it’s a tie between food and drink, you can have both.

So take your pick: do you want andor or tai? Or… do you want andor andor tai? (Or do you want andor tai tai?) You may be inclined to say “neither” or “no, thanks.” But in this case you have to pick at least one, because otherwise you’re stuck with and/or – and even if you never use it, it’s not going away!


On a day like this, the air is a thousand furry caterpillars crawling down your back. The sun shames you like a bad performance review, and all the envy you have ever felt creeps viscous from your skin and slinks to find the earth. Even the shadows of trees unwelcome you as though you had filled out paperwork in the wrong order. Your choice is to retreat to the hard artificial arctic of indoor air conditioning or to elongate yourself and allow the hot wet tongue of the dog star to lick you. Never mind how north you may be; your skin is in not the south but the sud, and it is torrific, horrific… sudorific.

If you’re in Canada, this word may be more familiar thanks not to the weather (which is only occasionally sultry) but to the toiletries: your antiperspirant (if you have one) says, on the French side, antisudorifique. Which can readily be anglicized as antisudorific, telling us that sudorific must mean perspirant and, from that, that sudor would seem to have to do with… sweat.

Which it does. It’s the Latin word for ‘sweat’. You may know it from the long and laborious medieval song “Olim sudor Herculis,” about the labours of Hercules, the title of which means “Once, the sweat of Hercules…”

But where does this word come from? Oh, that’s no sweat. No, wait, actually, it is. Or, anyway, it’s the same source as sweat, as scholars have found by poring over the historical record: sudor traces to Proto-Indo-European *sweyd-, which is also the source of Proto-Germanic *switjaną, which is the origin of, yes, sweat, and all the related words in other Germanic languages, such as German schwitzen and Yiddish shvitzn.

Well. This is the weather where we’re all shvitzers waiting for waiters to bring us spritzers (“sudo bring me a spritzer”). It’s not so terrific; it’s sudorific.


Sometimes a once-illustrious institution has lost its lustre. Perhaps (by way of illustration) its leader has been too great a luster, for power or money or luxury or adulation or adulteration; perhaps there has been less lucidity than one would like. The loutishness of the lotharios has gotten many into a lather of loathing for the leadership and its acolytes. It will all need to be laved, washed clean like the Augean stables, but more than that: it cannot have a mere whitewash; it must have performative purification. There must be a lustration.

Lustration is a word not often seen or heard, though it’s certainly not without occasion for use. One problem is that it sounds too much like a number of other words that don’t mean the same: lust and luster and lustre and illustration all leap to mind, and while the first two are not related to lustration the latter two may be. But while something that has had a lustration may seem sparkling clean and picture-perfect under illumination, that’s not what lustration means.

A lustration is, in the old and original sense, a rite of purification, especially of washing. Sometimes it’s more of a symbolic washing, or even a sacrifice, but it can also be a good and proper cleansing. And from that comes a more modern and figurative sense: to quote Wiktionary, “The restoration of credibility to a government by the purging of perpetrators of crimes committed under an earlier regime.” Not just slapping a new coat of paint on the walls and some perpetrators on the wrists, and not just making an example of one or two while letting the rest remain unexemplary; getting rid of all of them, and dealing with them according to their deserving. You can see where such a word could come into play from time to time.

But how has this word, which looks so lustrous and illustrative, taken a left turn to the lavabo and perhaps the guillotine? It comes from Latin lustratio, which is derived from lustro and ultimately lustrum, which refers to a purificatory sacrifice; it most likely is related to luo and lavo, both of which mean ‘I wash’ (they’re originally two versions of the same word); trace those back to Proto-Indo-European and you find the source of words to do with washing, including such as lather. But it may also (or alternatively) be related to luceo, ‘I shine’, source of words such as lucid; luceo traces to a Proto-Indo-European root that has as descendants words such as illustrationillustrious, lustre, luxury, light, and even leukemia and lynx. The evident fact that illustro (‘I elucidate’ or ‘I illuminate’ or ‘I make illustrious’) is formed from the same lustro as lustration gives some weight to this derivation.

It’s not too hard to see how brightness and cleanness can be related, anyway. As they say, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” But a good scouring with soap, and a removal of those who made it dirty in the first place, can only help.