curlicue

Such a Q-type word, and yet no q in it. Not to see, anyway; the cue may be referring to the letter Q – specifically the cursive capital, which is the curliest letter when done nicely, but can be more banal when done indifferently. I recall one of my junior high teachers explaining to us that the capital Q in handwriting looked like a 2 rather than a Q for some reason. The reason was simply failing to start the stroke far enough down, of course, but it took me a long time to see the Q in it (not as long as it took me to see the B in the logo for The Bay, though).

Well, so I missed my cue, but that’s a separate tale – and perhaps this cue is a separate tail, French queue; that’s the other possibility. One thinks of a pig’s tail. Which reinforces this word’s taste of barbecue, another often (but not always) q-less Q-type word (and that one has no q in its origin; it comes from a Caribbean word, barbacoa). But where that doll has Barbie, this stooge has Curly. And the curli here really is curly mutatis mutandis, a word that has always meant what it means and has changed only a little in form over the evolution of our language. Curl (verb) shows up in other Germanic languages as krollen, kröllen, and krullen. And we come back to food again, only this time to cruller, which does indeed come from the same source. Ah, doughnuts and smokepit hog: dude food, not so dainty as a curlicue, more a smorgasbord for a cur like you. Will you follow it with a liqueur? Maybe some curaçao?

Well, never mind – the sound of this word may almost show up in the middle of finger-lickin’, but in real life it has more to do with typography and design, and curl more with hair. There are a couple of little curls in it to see, the c and c, and the cu and cu look like clippings of ringlets on a barber’s floor. But the li in the middle? Only there to make the tip of your tongue curl up for a moment and lick your alveolar ridge.

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