April 17th, 2014

I *kiss* linguists


Originally posted by prettygoodword at escutcheon
escutcheon (ih-SKUHCH-uhn) - n., a shield or shield-like area displaying a coat of arms; an ornamental or protective plate or bezel around a keyhole, door handle, drawer pull, light switch, faucet, circuit-breakers, etc.; a panel or plate that protects or hides another piece, especially one that protrudes slightly; a plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name; the pattern of distribution of hair upon the pubic mound; the depression behind the beak of certain bivalves, the ligamental area.

The first is the best-known meaning, the one involved in the phrase "a blot upon the escutcheon," meaning a stain on one's reputation. The second/third meanings can get very general, of which the ship's name is a specialization. The pubic hair one amuses me the most, however. First attested in the 1470s as Middle English escochon, from Anglo-French escuchoun, from Vulgar Latin an unattested Vulgar Latin form derived from Latin scūtum, shield.


So "a blot upon the escutcheon" could also be a euphemism for a period. I'll have to start using that phrase.