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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

Words and clichés
have interesting history

When I was growing up, during the Great Depression, my family was as poor as a church mouse. I spent a lot of time in the cotton patch, but wished to be a lowly clerk in somebody’s office.

It warmed the cockles of my heart when Leon and I moved to Pecos and I went to work at Universal CIT. This is not a cock-and-bull story.

The above expressions in bold are from a book I peruse from time to time, titled “Why Do We Say It?” published by Castle.

Being a wordsmith of sorts, I am interested in the origin of expressions we use, most of which make no sense at all. Take church mouse, for example. Why would a church mouse be poor?

I don’t think most modern churches qualify for this, but the explanation is “There is no cupboard or larder in a church to produce crumbs for a mouse to feed upon.”

And how did an office assistant get the name “clerk? Again, church is involved.

“At one time only the clergy knew how to read or write, and so any person with this ability was assumed to be a “cleric.” Get the connection?

Aesop’s fables have cocks moralizing and bulls debating, thus a fanciful tale is called a “cock-and-bull story.”

Cockle comes from the zoological name for cardium from kardia, the Greek word for “heart.” Appears to me that cockles of the heart would be redundant, since the two words mean the same thing.

It’s much easier for me to read about these words than to use them in a crossword puzzle. Leon left several puzzle books, and occasionally I will try to work one when I’m sitting at the kitchen table. Today’s was typical.

Across:Brit’s break hour. Hightea fits, but the letters don’t seem to work with the “down” clues.

Purvey the buffet. Five letters, the middle one c.

Weather map lines

I got a few easy words, such as anted, cat, bon, yes, droll and oval. I picked Alabama for Georgia’s neighbor, but nothing else in that group would fit with it. Oh well.

Now I need to find out how to get rid of these numbers. Once you start a list in Word, they appear automatically and won’t let me erase them.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” In the Bible somewhere.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager. Contact her at HYPERLINK ""

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