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Today's Word



Jul 27, 2020
This week’s theme
Words having origins in tree names

This week’s words

An oak

Previous week’s theme
Words coined after fairy-tale characters
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with Anu Garg

Where I live here in the Seattle area, fruit trees dot the whole neighborhood and they seem to take turns being in the spotlight. Last year it was the sweet juicy plums, so many that if you stood near a tree, opened your palm, and closed your eyes, the tree might put plums in your hand and whisper in your ear, “Please enjoy some plums and help lighten my load.”
plums cherries
There’s also a lone cherry tree and this year it was the cherry’s turn.

So many! Birds swooped in. The way I see it, they have as much right to the fruit as we do. They eat, rejoice and make noise, and also leave pits around. The whole fruiting season doesn’t last very long, just a few weeks.

The other day I went to the homeowners’ association office, and as it happened, someone else was also visiting the office. I caught the tail end of the conversation. They were talking about cutting down the cherry tree.

“What?” I said.
“It makes too much of a mess,” she said.

I’d rather we not cut any trees, but if you really are itching to kill a tree, maybe chop down that hemlock tree on the other side. But no! It’s the cherry tree that’s making the mess.

What kind of a Trumpian world do we live in?
A sweet cherry tree? Kill it!
Hemlock? No problem.

I’d rather we not cut a tree. But if we have to, let it not be the lone cherry tree. And in any case, we should not be paying for the killing through the homeowners’ association.

The woman left the association office with the approval, saying that she’d be getting a quotation from a tree-cutting company.

After that, every morning when I’d come out for a walk, I’d be holding my breath, half-fearing to find the cherry tree murdered with a stump left behind.

It has been many weeks, but the tree is still standing. I’m hoping my gentle, yet firm, protest worked, but who knows. Next year or the following year the cherry tree might bloom again and ripened cherries might fall on the ground, birds might come to enjoy their share and leave pits behind. And thus the tree might again invite the wrath of someone who doesn’t like the “mess”.

Trees sustain life. They also sustain language. We use many of the tree-related terms metaphorically,* for example, the verb to cherry-pick. This week we’ll see five more such words.

*Benjamin Franklin once said, “Little strokes, Fell great oaks.” He said much that’s worth putting into practice, but don’t start felling trees, please. I’m pretty sure here he was speaking metaphorically, just as when he said “Fatigue is the best pillow.” Yes, it’s the best pillow, especially after making many little strokes on your way to success.



verb tr.: To confirm or support a claim, theory, etc.

From Latin corroborare (to strengthen), from com/cor- (together) + roborare (to make strong), from robur (oak, strength). Ultimately from the Indo-European root reudh- (red), which also gave us red, rouge, ruby, ruddy, rubella, robust, rambunctious, roborant, and russet. Earliest documented use: 1530.

“Previously, it was not possible to corroborate the claims due to a lack of evidence.”
Biochemical Weapons Expert Flees N. Korea; The Philippines News Agency (Manila); Jul 3, 2015.

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

In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent, unresolvable, and necessary. -Kathleen Norris, novelist and columnist (1880-1966)

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