Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Word of the day (current light reading)

So much for resolutions. I fell off the wagon pretty quickly. Instead of reading blogs, I've been dipping into a taste of old fashioned print literature. This week it's one of my patron saints, Henry David Thoreau. He gives us today's word, embedded in his salty essay "Cape Cod." I hope you enjoy this odd bit of dry wit as much as I did:

'Now I am going to ask you a question,' said the old man, 'and I don't know as you can tell me: but you are a learned man, and I never had any learning, only what I got by natur.' -- It was in vain that we reminded him that he could quote Josephus to our confusion. --'I've thought, if I ever met a learned man I should like to ask him this question. Can you tell me how Axy is spelt, and what it means? Axy,' says he; 'there's a girl over here is named Axy. Now what is it? What does it mean? Is it Scripture? I've read my Bible twenty-five years over and over, and I never came across it.'

'Did you read it twenty-five years for this object?' I asked.

'Well, how is it spelt? Wife, how is it spelt?'

She said, 'It is in the Bible; I've seen it.'

'Well, how do you spell it?'

'I don't know. A c h, ach, s e h, seh, -- Achseh.'

'Does that spell Axy? Well, do you know what it means?' asked he, turning to me.

'No,' I replied, 'I never heard the sound before.'

'There was a schoolmaster down here once, and they asked him what it meant, and he said it had no more meaning than a bean-pole.'

I told him that I held the same opinion with the schoolmaster. I had been a schoolmaster myself, and had had strange names to deal with. I also heard of such names as Zoheth, Beriah, Amaziah, Bethuel, and Shearjashub, hereabouts.

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