Word Hoard

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Clout, Clour, and Gound

I most recently heard clout used in a political advertisement for Ben Nelson, incumbent Senator for Nebraska. The gist was that Nebraska is a small state, and we need his clout in Washington to get us what we need.

A quick look at the Bartleby.com/Merriam-Webster entry has the meaning I'm most familiar with as the third definition. I'm also intrigued that the fourth definition, "a piece of cloth, especially a baby's diaper," is used "chiefly in Midland US" and is closest to the Old English etymology: cloth patch.

If I were a play-by-play man for baseball, I'd gladly work to include "clout" in my calling of the game. Even a boxing announcer could use it, and if archery had announcers, them too. Here is where the the etymology starts coming around to making sense to me. A cloth patch would be a nice thing to put on a target to aim at. Then some one who was good at striking the target/clout, could translate to other striking occupations, like punching. From there we have the power and influence, wallop if you will, that comes with a punch.

The last word should, and does, go to the OED. It doesn't say anything about clout meaning punch or power or influence until the 8th and 9th definitions. It does confirm my assumption with: "(a piece of canvas on a frame and laid on the ground) the mark shot at in archery." A sample usage of the cloth meaning includes "cast a clout," remove a garment.

A stronger word for punch or heavy blow is "clour." Scottish & north, it has an unknown origin. It started as a knoll, mound, and soon thereafter acquired the verb, to dent, strike heavily, raise a swelling or lump, with the nouns a swelling or lump (on the head) caused by a heavy blow, a heavy blow, and a dent caused by a heavy blow.

I don't know if I covered it here before; I don't really care if I did, but I like the word "gound." Old English gund = Gothic gund, Old High German gunt. Foul matter, pus, esp. that secreted in the eye. Survived in barngun (from var. of BURN verb + var. of GOUND), an eruption of the skin; shingles. Forget the shingles affiliation and just use this one to refer to "sleep," those eye boogers we get and sometimes go to the first two classes of the day with before we finally see ourselves in a mirror.

I was particularly pleased in myself that I took the opportunity to use gound when playing Scrabble yesterday evening.

I used Bartleby.com and the fifth edition of the Shorter OED to assist me in this web log.


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