Thingamajig Thursday: Aglets

Today I'm reviving a long-lost feature few of you might remember: Thingamajig Thursday. The basic concept used to be that every thursday (give or take), I'd take a close look at some interesting thingamajig - or thingamabob, if you prefer "“ and let you know the real name of it so you could appear a tad smarter than the next guy, who's still foolishly calling the thingamajig a thingamajig.

I'll spend some time reviving a few of my favorites from the blog's incipient summer days of 2006, and then start with a whole bunch of new ones. This time around, however, I'd love it if you all would join me in trying to rename the thingamajig in question. Most of these have rather lame sounding names. I know you guys love to show off your creative sides, so have at it! I'll pick one or two of my favorites and post them the following thursday for the whole world to see. Who knows? Maybe you'll even succeed at coining a new thingamajig word.

So let's start with the aglet or aiglet, as it's sometimes spelled. An aglet is that funny plastic or metal cap thingamajig at the end of your shoelace, which is supposed to keep the lace from unraveling. (Though try telling that to my 9-month-old Jack.) The word itself, which can be traced back to the Latin, acus, or needle, is pronounced AG-let, with the accent on the first syllable, not ag-LET. Were the accent on the second syllable, it might be fun to substitute the word into that Frank Sinatra song and sing, "Aglets, I've had a few...."

Now: if you've got a heck of a lot of free time on your hands, you might want to learn how to repair broken aglets here, at

And I'll leave you with Wiki, who has some additional interesting info on the little aglet, as well:

Before the invention of buttons, [aglets] were used on the ends of ribbons to fasten clothing together. Sometimes they would be formed into small figures. Shakespeare calls this type of figure an "aglet baby" in The Taming of the Shrew.

So, had I invented this thingamajig I'd have called it a fraynot. How about you guys?

Thingamajig Thursday: ferrules

It's been a while since our last Thingamajig Thursday. Today I'm naming that slim metal band, or clamp, that wraps around a pencil, holding the eraser in place. You'll also find them stretched around a paintbrush, keeping the bristles tight, or the part of a violin bow that holds the hair to the "frog," or base.

fer.jpgAlso a verb, the word ferrule comes from the Latin viriola, or "small bracelet." So next time you're at Pearl Paint, or even Tiffany's, whip out the dope on ferrules and tell that salesperson what you really want. You might not get any better service, but you'll get a helluva lot of satisfaction showing off your knowledge.In the meantime, let's come up with a better word for the ferrule. I mean, it's a pretty okay work as far as thingamajigs go, but I know you smart readers can do better. Lay them on us.

Thingamajig Thursday: rowels

Time for another Thingamajig Thursday. Today I'm naming those small revolving disks with the sharp points that you find on the end of a cowboy's spurs.

They're called rowels, a word which can be traced back to the Latin root, rotae, which was the name of the wheel on a horse-drawn chariot. As a verb, we derive roto, or, to turn, from the same root.

Though no one knows exactly when people first started putting rowels on spurs, the spur itself is believed to date back to the Roman empire, though you won't find them on any of the sculptures from the period.

brokeback_15.jpgBefore rowels, spurs sometimes had little pointy nubs on the ends of them, which eventually morphed into fixed disks before someone had the smart idea to get those wheels a turning. The fixed disk variety can be seen on the seal of Henry III and by the 14th century, the roweled spur was as standard as the horse itself.

If this post has spurred you on to come up with a better name for the rowel, it's that time again: Let's see what your smart readers can come up with. Drop your improved thingamajig name in the comments below. And if the Brokeback Mountain theme is now stuck in your head, I sincerely, really, honestly do apologize.


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