Daily Archives: January 20, 2009

caudate

This word may strike the unfamiliar as somehow caustic, or perhaps pertaining to a caul, or the date on which something was caused. To hear it, it’s something the cod ate. But in reality, its object is more likely appended to something that ate the cod. Ah, thereby hangs a tale… If you wish to give the cat a due, here it is: a word for things that have tails. The root is straightforward: Latin cauda, “tail.” Let your cat not bathe it in a bagna càuda. Fans of sound symbolism may wonder how so uncaudal a word could come to signify a tail. What could be curly or sinuous about a word with nothing but stops for consonants – not a liquid anywhere, and little curling of the vowels either? And yet you will find your cat so cuddly as it strokes you caudally…

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