Monday, January 28, 2013

Finding the words

Craft shows are amazing. You never know what you'll find, except you're pretty sure to meet some interesting people. Crafters tend to be creative, friendly folks, eager to talk and willing to share their enthusiasm for their work. Over the many years I've been doing craft shows, I've never yet come away without a sense of inspiration.

Occasonally I offer my books at a craft show. Despite the advantages of epubbing, lots of people still like "real" books, and even more like to meet the author in person. And I must confess that shoppers' awe of writers is quite an ego boost.

This weekend my table was near a wood-turner's, happily for me. I'm a great lover of wood, in its living form and in the multitudinous shapes it takes in the skilled hands of a woodworker. This particular turner, a former shop teacher, was equally intrigued with the written word, and we ended up swapping items. He got a copy of Framed; I got a stick.

The stick was about a foot and a half long, of clear, fine-grained maple with a satiny finish. It slid easily into my hand, and my fingers stopped naturally at a knob about a third of the way down. Each end is smooth and rounded. I like the balance of it, the perfect weight, the way it feels like an extension of my arm. Most of all, I like its name.

It's called a "spurtle." An old word, but new to me. By definition, a spurtle is a stick for stirring porridge or soup. The derivation is Scots and goes back at least 400 years. I'm charmed by the idea that there is a name for a stick used to stir food; the equivalent in my kitchen is  simply a "wooden spoon." But mostly I love the way the word feels in my mouth. It has a hiss, a pop, a purr, a growl, and that luscious "tl" at the end. Very satisfying.

Porridge is not often on the menu in my house, so my spurtle will probably hang on the wall, with assorted ribbons according to the season. But I'm so enchanted by it, I might write a Highlander novel, just so I can use its name.

What  unusual words have you found in unexpected places? And where do they take you?