September 21, 2006


Kathleen had fallen asleep, but I bent over to kiss her goodnight, and in her sleepiness she cried, "You smell so good. I think it's your beard!" "You don't think it's my cologne?" I asked. But she had fallen back to sleep by then.

I had actually said, "'s my kalogney?" That's what clever kids do well into their fifties: they deliberately mispronounce foreign words. Or worse: I have a friend who used to be incapable of calling a car a Lincoln: it had to be a Lincogne. In Spanish: Lincoña. Don't ask me where this came from. I can sort of guess, though.

Walking from the bedside to the deskside, I thought: the humor of saying "kalogney" rests on everyone's knowing not only how the word is pronounced but also how it is spelled. And what could be a better test of this than Googling the non-word "calone"? That's how you'd spell it if you'd never read it, right? And what is the Blogosphere but a haven for writers who don't read? The following passages are first-page returns for "calone smell. " (You will want to use the Find on this Page feature in Edit.)

ll make you weak from just the smell of my calone. Your be following me home!

what is your favorite calone?

[What you currently smell like] calone...long night hehe

That's EXACTLY what I was thinking. The article promised--promised!--that we were nearing the end of the cycle of all-alike fresh-outdoorsy scents and moving into some warmer men's scents, and all I see and smell is calone everywhere. I'm so sick of it! I tried three new scents this evening--Instinct by David Beckham, Guess Man, and Nautica Blue--and they're ALL THE SAME.


First, I hate when people smell fake... I'm a hippy that way. :D Ok, if there's really bad BO, roll on the deoderant... but for just body smell, ick! I can see why some perfume might be attractive, it actually smells pretty, but I ALWAYS hate guy's calone. However, both are perfumes, calogne is called that to make the man feel "Manly" (he couldn't groom himself, no!) But I digress..

And I think that I could on and on go - but for the sweetness of the last entry's orthographic polymorphousness, so characteristic of Earlier English.

It's possible, however, that not one of the passages that I've held up for - well, certainly not ridicule contains a misspelling of the word "cologne." Consider:

ectocarpene, Calone 1951 ®, and a new experimental marine odorant

Perhaps everyone's been talking about the marine fragrance known as "Calone." It would be a good joke.

The awful truth is that people who wear cologne as a matter of course, or don't, also as a matter of course, say "scent."

November 20, 2005

The Word on Sunday


Today's word is actually a pair of homonyms. They have come to share the same spelling: caddy.

There is the golf caddy, formerly a human being, formerly a "caddie." This word comes, via Scotland, from the French cadet, or young man. Specifically, a young man who would hang about, available for brief hire as a messenger. This meaning was set by the early eighteenth century. Printed references to golf caddies date from the 1850s.

Then there is the tea caddy, derived from a South Asian measure of weight used for tea, or catti. Eventually, the container took the name of the measure. A tea caddy is a small box made of wood or porcelain. Tea caddies became merely decorative vessels when people began brewing their own tea in their own kitchens, instead conducting the whole elaborate (and inconvenient) operation at a tea table in the drawing room.

All of this was brought to mind by a small porcelain cache-pot that I bought for Kathleen at Tiffany a thousand years ago. It's really much too small for anything but a minute pot of African violets, and for years it has held items that approach two dimensions: ticket stubs, business cards, and bookmarks. Going through its contents last night, it occurred to me to call it - the cache-pot - a caddy, and I wondered why. I think that it's some subterranean confusion of the two words, caddie and caddy. It's small, like a caddy, and it helps out by carrying things, as does a caddie.

The ex-cache-pot now holds (a) bookmarks, (b) a small magnifying glass in the brocade envelope it came in, at China Arts & Crafts in Guangzhou, (c) a map of Bermuda, together with a plan of the Dorado Beach/Cerromar campus that we'll be heading off to (in Puerto Rico, not Bermuda) on Thursday (didn't have to hunt for that!), and (d) a few miscellaneous items - who's perfect? The ticket stubs are in a box of their own, while the old credit cards, of which that for B Altman, above, is my favorite, not because of the color but because of the store itself, which was everything that a department store ought to be, are in a "souvenir" box that will probably fill up faster than I want it to. But everything looks neat.