Thingamajig Thursday: rowels

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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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August 7, 2008 - 12:38am
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