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Today's Word



Dec 13, 2021
This week’s theme

This week’s words
apple knocker
banana oil
sour grapes

apple knocker
A literal apple knocker

apple door knocker
A different kind of apple knocker

Previous week’s theme
Illustrated words
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with Anu Garg

A pomegranate is a seedy apple, literally speaking. I said literally. Not trying to denigrate the pomegranate, an upright member of the fruit family, named from Latin pomum (apple) + granum (seed).

The pomegranate is a hard-working fruit. It has given us much. We got the word grenade from French grenade, which got it from Spanish granada. In both languages the words mean both a pomegranate and a grenade. The deep-red gem garnet is also named after the pomegranate.

That’s a behind-the-scenes peek of what I have gathered from our word gardens lately. So this week’s menu is all fruit. We’re doing our part to keep your vocabulary fit and perky.

Now it’s time for a question.

An apple knocker knocks them down, but how does a playwright get his fruit?
He shakes pear.

apple knocker

(AP-uhl nok-uhr)

1. An ignorant or unsophisticated person.
2. A baseball player, especially a batter.
3. A fruit picker, farmer, or seller.

1. From the stereotypical view of those working in the field as boorish or naive.
2. From the jocular reference to a baseball as an apple.
3. From the image of someone picking apples by knocking them down with a stick.
Earliest documented use: 1902.

In the term apple knocker, a baseball has been compared to an apple. In the past, those balls were even made in red color. And a ballpark is also called an apple orchard probably because that’s where the game was often played. So it figures that a batter is an apple knocker. Baseball players will continue knocking the apple with a bat, but fruit picking is going high-tech. Here in Washington state, we grow apples and many other fruits and a robotics arm race is going on to develop automated fruit pickers. In the future, we may need to amend the definition of the term apple knocker. Instead, an apple knocker may be someone working with drones and robots.

“Look, just because I live on a tobacco farm doesn’t mean I’m some apple-knocker.”
Harper Lin; Scandals in Savannah; Harper Lin Books; 2020.

“That big apple knocker out there on the mound is batting ninth now on my card.”
Philip Roth; The Great American Novel; Holt; 1973.

Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry ... To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery. -George Polya, mathematician (13 Dec 1887-1985)

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