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Today's Word



Jun 19, 2017
This week’s theme
Words derived from the names of parts of the body

This week’s words

Caltrop (dangerous)
Photo: CIA

Caltrop (delicious)
Photo: Scott

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with Anu Garg

A few weeks ago I passed out in the gym, perhaps due to dehydration. Gravity did its thing. My body accelerated at 9.8 m/s² and met the ground. A concussion is no fun. I sympathize with the NFL players who have to do this for a living.

The emergency room doctors stapled my head, did a whole bunch of tests, and released me with the instructions to rest. I lay in bed for a few days. It can be tiring to rest.

So I lay in bed, thinking random thoughts. Why don’t human bodies come with a warranty? Any damage, and we’ll give you a new one, no questions asked. Well, that may not happen, but aftermarket service is great and getting better (though it can cost an arm and a leg).

Modern medicine is impressive. Thank you, science! It’s cool (and spooky) to look at the CT scan of your own head. I guess that’s one way to do introspection. I asked the hospital for a CD of the scans. Here’s a slice. Now you can also look into my head, though a better way to do that is to simply read what I write.

Anyway, the packaging may have taken a hit (and now healing, slowly), but the goods are intact. I still think about words, dream of them, and play with them.

So as I was reading the latest issue of National Geographic magazine, I came across this article, and a word jumped out at me. If you know what ontology is, you know what an ontologist does, but do you know what a pale ontologist does? I don’t know, but she’d better sit down if she’s feeling pale. A concussion is no fun.

This week we’ll have fun with a week of words derived from the names of various parts of the body.



1. A device with (typically) four projecting spikes arranged in a way that one spike is always pointing up. Used to obstruct the passage of cavalry, vehicles, etc.
2. Any of various plants having spiny fruits.

From Old English calcatrippe (any of various plants, such as thistle, that catch the feet), from Latin calcatrippa (thistle), from calx (heel) + trap. Earliest documented use: 1000.

“Marsh tried to swallow a growing ache, and winced. His injuries had become a caltrop lodged in his throat.”
Ian Tregillis; The Coldest War; Tor; 2012.

See more usage examples of caltrop in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist. -Salman Rushdie, writer (b. 19 Jun 1947)

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