Evolution of Excelsior to Wood Shavings

Definition of evolution according to the Webster’s New World Dictionary book–book–remember what that is?  I could’ve just punched the word “evolution”  into the search bar, but I’m more of a traditionalist and occasionally like to grab the actual book for the nostalgia.  Besides, looking up a word on the internet is nowhere near as educational as looking it up in an actual dictionary, at least not for me.

See, my kids and husband joke that I’m ADD.  I’m not really.  I just like to multi-task.  I’m usually very observant, especially of nature, and really do say, in mid-sentence, “LOOK, a butterfly!”  Also, when I get a thought in my head, if I don’t blurt it out just then, I often forget what it was by the time I get a chance to speak.  People who love me realize this and forgive my interruptions, at least I assume they do, since they still come around…now, where was I?

Yes, the dictionary as an educational resource.  I go to look up a particular word and, along the way, stop off at other words that I may not have heard of in a while (or ever) and read their definitions.  Eventually, once I’ve remembered the word I was supposed to be looking up, I get to it.  So, in looking up the word evolution, what do we come across?

Epiglottis–that’s a fun word to say, isn’t it?  That’s the thin, lidlike piece of cartilage that covers your windpipe (trachea) when you swallow…usually.  Our family has many sayings and one of them is “pulling a Dad”.  He got this honor because he is the one person in our household most prone to not closing the lid on his trachea, resulting in his inhaling his beverage or a crumb, etc..  Then he hacks, coughs, turns red, tears up and, once he’s recovered, will sometimes join in the laughter of the rest of us.  They laugh at me when I have something go down the wrong way, too, but not because I go on for ten minutes coughing, hacking and so on.  I cough a couple times, then have a sneezing fit.  It’s very effective and quite a timesaver.  Not to mention, another form of entertainment for my family.  Moving on….

Execrate:  to denounce scathingly;  to abhor, loathe.  Who uses that word, anymore?  I try to discourage my kids from using the word HATE, so maybe I’ll have them use execrate, instead.

Excelsior:  long, thin, wood shavings used for packing.  Not to be confused with the Latin word excelsis as in the “Glória in excélsis Deo” or “Glory to God in the highest”.  We sang this in our high school chorus at the Christmas concerts, back when we used to still call them Christmas concerts.  Of course, I always thought it was “excelcius”, a non-existent word back in the 80’s.  Today, it has 4,960 results when you search for it on the web.  Some results have to do with a strange on-line game, most have to do with a type of software and there is one soybean inoculation website.  I never knew soybeans had to get shots, did you?

If you look into the origin of “excelsior” on the web, you find that it also means “higher” or “ever upward” in Latin and became the New York state motto in the 1700’s.  Longfellow titled a poem “Excelsior” in the 1840’s.  Excelsior was the trademark for a company that made wood shavings for stuffing chair cushions in the 1860’s.  Apparently, that is where my Webster’s got its definition from.  I hope students of the online Excelsior College in NY don’t use my dictionary to look up the name of their college.

So, evolution:  An unfolding (not of laundry or a map); process of development or change.  I won’t go into the other definitions, which we all know, because they don’t pertain to the topic I was going to discuss today:  The Evolution of My Cooking.  Guess I’ll do that another day!

Apparently, I was wrong;  looking up words on the web can be very educational in its own right.  I certainly didn’t know how excelsior came to mean wood shavings, did you?


About rebelwife

New England wife of a Southern man relocated back to Alabama.
This entry was posted in America, Humor, Language, Life, Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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