When 12-year-old Carol from Dartmouth was shopping for shoes, the sales associate determined her shoe size on a black metal "foot measurer" with rulers, slides and other movable pieces. Carol asked if I know the name of that special instrument. I do, Carol, and your welcome question reminds me that it's time for another column about words and language. Your feet were measured with the Brannock Device, patented in 1926 and named after its inventor, Charles Brannock (1903-1992).
There are many "thingamajigs" we come into contact with and have no idea what to call them. One of these is that loop on your belt that keeps the loose end from flapping. It's called a keeper. The metal piece on the buckle that goes through the holes is a prong. Speaking of holes, the ones at the top of your shower curtain for the hooks, or on cargo covers (tarps) for rope, are known as grommets. How about the plastic tubes on the ends of your shoelaces to keep them from fraying? Well, they're called aiglets, and the holes in your shoes that the lace passes through are eyelets. Armholes in your clothing, when they're not just being called armholes, are armscyes (pronounced arms eyes) or even just syes.
Living in Nova Scotia, it may be useful for us to know the main parts of an umbrella. That spike at the top of the canopy is the finial or ferrule.(Finial also applies to the decorative knob on many lamps, flagpoles, fenceposts, etc.). The skeletal pieces of an umbrella are appropriately named ribs, and a runner slides along the pole to open or close the canopy.
There are even parts of our own bodies that are not in our vocabulary. That indentation between our nose and our lips, for example, is a philtrum, and a lunule is the white section at the bottom of our fingernails, commonly called the half-moon. There are, of course, many more of these elusive labels in our language and I'll return to the topic another day.
Jacqueline Warlow, a retired educator, lives in Dartmouth. Mother of three and grandmother of six, she is a freelance writer and a "People With Tales" storyteller.