Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today's word: scuttlebutt

"Scuttlebutt Sam" Says. Don't Let Th...
Image via Wikipedia
Scuttlebutt, simply put, is gossip. It's the embarrassing moments that people talk about when you're not in the room. It's the raison d'ĂȘtre of the quidnunc, what coworkers gab about over the office water cooler.

It's a fun, weird little word, a compound of scuttle + butt. Scuttle is from Middle English skottell and refers to a hole with a cover. Originally, it referred to a small opening in a wall or roof or on the deck or side of a ship. The verb to scuttle, which refers to destroying and abandoning your own ship, comes from the idea of putting holes in the bottom of the ship to sink it.

The butt part of scuttlebutt refers neither to what rams do with their heads nor to what you find at the opposite end of a ram. It comes from the Latin buttis, a large cask. (The diminutive, butticula, led to the word bottle, and is not, as you might think, a blood-sucking, immortal, Transylvanian anus.)

So a scuttlebutt is a large cask with hole in it that has a cover. Specifically, the scuttlebutt holds the drinking water on an oceangoing vessel, and it's where sailors would go to talk.

That's right, the scuttlebutt is the ship's water cooler.

I just think that's wild.
Enhanced by Zemanta