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Jul 20

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Odd Words: Callet

CalletI’m trying to get Frankly Curious moving again. To help in that, I thought I would get back to my reading through The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. When I last wrote about it, I did the word “caducity.” That brings us to page 37 and the word “callet.”

Is It Hot in Here?!

Roughly half of page 37 is dedicated to “cal—” words: those that come from the Latin calor, which means “heat.” It’s where we get words like “calorie.” But the dictionary doesn’t waste any space on words found on cereal boxes. One word I don’t recall seeing before is “calefacient.” It means: “a medicinal substance producing a feeling of warmth.” On the other side of the page was “calorimeter.” I think you already know what that word means.

When looking at these words in this context, it’s easy to see them in an SAT sort of way. If you were forced to, you could grab hold of “cal—” and figure it was something having to do with heat. And in context, it is always going to be clear. “The doctor used a calorimeter to measure my temperature after they gave me a calefacient.” Kind of boring, really.

Other Words

There were some other interesting words, both known and unknown. One known, but interesting, word, was “caldera.” You can’t have studied much earth science at all and have missed it. It is “a large crater formed by the collapse of the center of the cone of a volcano.”

Two words were completely new to me. And they related to turtles! The first is “calipash,” which is “an edible greenish-colored gelatinous substance lying beneath the upper shell of a turtle.” The second is “calipee,” which is “an edible, yellowish colored gelatinous substance attached to the lower shell of a turtle. Geez, biologists and cooks!

Another interesting word is “callipygian.” It means: “having well-formed buttocks.” Greek-based words tend to upset my sense of what is right in language. This one comes from the Greek word kallipūgos, which is a word that describes a famous statue of Venus, the goddess of love and all that. It is combined with pūgē, which means “buttocks.” So “Venus-like buttocks.” I won’t forget that one!

Onto Callet!

But okay, onto our word for today: callet:

Cal·let  noun  \kal’-it; kā’-lit\ (British dialect)

1. a prostitute.

2. a shrwish, sharp-tongued woman.

Date: Late Middle English (early 17th century).

Origin: I don’t know. It is a regional word, however. It’s hard to keep track of them.

Example: I don’t really have one. The word is obscure. And it is also a common name. And it is more popular in French than in English. But how about something like, “That callet will never be tamed.” That has a good Shakespearean feel to it.

There is something offensive about the word: that it more or less equates a sharp-tongued woman with a prostitute. But what do you expect from such an old word?

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19 comments

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  1. Lawrence

    I was wondering if you were ill or just so overworked you weren’t posting. Hopefully that was not the case, or at least it isn’t now.
    I’m curious what made you select that particular photo for the post. I assume the woman is supposed to represent a callet in one or both definitions of the word.

    1. Frank Moraes

      The picture is stated to be one of an actual prostitute in El Salvador. The reason I chose it is because it is the only one that I could find that was free that looked anything like a prostitute. I think from now on, I’m going to base my word selections on the availability of good images and quotes, as I did for today’s word.

      Ill? Good question. I have been suffering from extreme anxiety the last couple of months. And the last two weeks have been the worst. But I hope that I have turned a corner.

      1. James Fillmore

        Glad you’re trying to write again. One of my wife’s friends was just getting into the site when it went on hiatus; this friend really enjoyed the wide range of subjects. (And of course I hope you’re feeling better, that’s more important by far.)

        I’m with Lawrence, I thought the photo lady was just being sexy/sassy.

        I’ve only known one sex worker in my life, a lady who worked graveyard at my Portland group home job and did prostitution as a part-time side gig. At one point the company running the house bailed and fired all the employees. Both me and this lady were fired, but since the company had stopped staffing the facility, we showed up anyway. It’s not like there were any supervisors around to tell us not to be there. The company was just gone.

        The state found a new company to run the place a month later (and soon kicked the original one, Danville Services, out of Oregon). But for a month it was me and this lady. Not paid. Five residents, all of whom needed full assistance with dressing, eating, washing, etc. I’d work by myself for 12 hours, then she would. It would have been a total disaster without her. She did all the laundry and cooking prep while everyone was asleep.

        And she still sometimes did the side gig! I asked her once how this was even possible. She said she usually fell asleep on the job. Don’t they notice?, I asked. “‘Not usually. And if they do, I just say “you’re so good you knocked me out.'”

        1. Frank Moraes

          I was roommates with a sex worker for several years. And I’ve known a lot of others. You can’t really live the kind of life I have without doing so. I hope no one took the image to be negative. Since Lawrence mentioned that, though, I’ve been more careful with images.

          That story would make a really good basis for a novel. Give it some thought!

        2. Frank Moraes

          And thanks. I’m still not doing very well. But working on this does help.

          1. James Fillmore

            Sorry to hear that. “Nice people finish last” seems to be the national motto right now. What can we do besides encouraging the nice ones we run into? That’s the best notion I’ve currently got. And no, it ain’t shit, I know this.

            Good that you’re enjoying the odd-word stuff. These days, I tend to hate the idea of writing, start enjoying it as I do it, then am happy when it’s done and I’m relatively not disgusted by the results. But it never makes starting the next one easier. I still dread them all. At least most are just minor-league box-score recaps with jokes. The subject matter’s a cinch. I just don’t have it in me to make the jokes. Until I do.

            No, I didn’t find the image negative at all. The lady looked more confident than anything else to me. But there is an issue I suppose with using photos of sex workers. Unless you know them, you don’t know to what degree the work is voluntary.

            1. Frank Moraes

              I do feel beaten down, but it is no one’s fault. The older I get, the more clear it is that I should have pursued my academic career more, because that’s where I belong.

              I wouldn’t say that I am enjoying the Odd Words articles. But they provide a structure. I know that there is this one article I have to do every day. And it isn’t hard; I know just what to do. I’ve been meaning to write about a couple of movies I saw (Breaker Morant and the new Pirates film), but I’ve just been too tired. I finish each day and then go right to sleep.

              1. James Fillmore

                I’m so sorry; what a horrible place to be in.

                Before the GOP kills insurance exchanges, you should get your thyroid checked. It can change over time. I’ve seen people (one who was already ON thyroid medication) go south when their situation changed, and rebound in a week when the proper medication was taken/adjusted. Worth a look.

                1. Frank Moraes

                  That’s interesting. When I first got health insurance — a year and a half ago — I went in for a checkup, and my thyroid was under-performing significantly. The doctor put me on medication and that brought up my thyroid functioning to normal levels. But I didn’t find that it had any noticeable effect on me. You are right, however; I should have it checked again.

                  I feel much like Winston Smith at the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four — or at least the way I see him. People exist on multiple levels and even while the top level is “He loved Big Brother,” right below that was the feeling of total confusion. He hangs on to his fantasy because he has nothing else. That’s where I’m at — except that I don’t even have the calming fantasy of belief in the party and Big Brother. Not that I’m complaining. To struggle is to live.

                  1. James Fillmore

                    Or you could be fighting off something serious. Which is why access to health care is so important. Sure, a few people would abuse universal coverage and go in twice weekly to complain about toe callouses because they crave the attention. That’s a statistically insignificant minority. What’s far more important is the number of people who have red flag symptoms (sleep patterns, weight changes, pain) and don’t go in because they fear the costs. Many of whom could be successfully treated if they’d gone in earlier.

                    This spring, my wife had a strange bump on her belly. She has health insurance, but didn’t want to go through the hassle about payment paperwork & such. I told her “you are going, and you are going today.” Turned out to be an infection that is completely curable with a few days of IV antibiotics, yet if you don’t get on it, it can kill you. Quite rare. It’s cured; she’s fine. (And while that hospital stay cost us a bundle, thank Christ we hit the deductible and insurance paid for the rest.)

                    Get your exhaustion checked out, use the insurance while you have it. It’ll almost certainly be nothing. If it is something, treatment might help. If it’s an expensive something, you have insurance past your deductible.

                    Agreed: life is struggle. And always will be. My issue is that it’s struggle over meaningless shit. We should be worrying about existential concerns, not simple stuff like health and food and shelter. We’ve known how to make these things available to everyone for decades. Refusing to do so is stupid politics, rank immorality, and simply ignorant economics.

                    1. Frank Moraes

                      Wow, that’s an amazing story about your wife. But that is the way it is. My brother-in-law almost died due to a skin infection. You’ve got to be careful with that.

                      The problem I have with my issues is that they are so vague. I suspect they are just the result of anxiety. In fact, I’ve been feeling better the last few days. Of course, I slept much of today. I don’t know. I suppose I should go. Couldn’t hurt.

                      You are right about life’s struggle. Most of the things we struggle over are unnecessary. And it is all so that a tiny number of people can be really rich. Sad.

                    2. James Fillmore

                      Hope I didn’t give off the vibe that “I’m master of this household, and I told the little lady what to do.” No. My Mom died from an entirely curable cancer, curable that is if she’d gone to the doctor earlier. As it was, she’d just lost her employer-provided health care along with her job. The company didn’t want to pay her that 20-year pension they promised. So they fired her after 19. And my youngest brother was still in high school. So Mom avoided the doctor. Until it was too late.

                      That’s not happening again. Not on my watch.

                      You probably have nothing. But it doesn’t hurt to check, and you can afford it.

                    3. Frank Moraes

                      No, you didn’t come off that way at all. I remember that your mother’s employer did that to her, but I didn’t know that it led pretty much directly to her death. That’s something that really bugs me. All this stuff with Obamacare repeal and businesses trying to save a few pennies — it really makes me mad. It is a question of life and death.

                      Yes, I will try to go to the doctor this week — or schedule an appointment at least. But I’m always like this. I hate going to the doctor. Not that that is unusual.

                    4. James Fillmore

                      I stopped reading Daily Kos when the siterunner insisted everyone needs to be on board with Trump’s treatment of immigrants being the most important resistance issue. If you care the most about health insurance, you’re a jerk who doesn’t know how to prioritize properly.

                      But that’s not how it works. People are most passionate about the issues which affect us personally. For me, that’s health care. For others, it will be our cruel immigration policies, or police brutality, environmental protection, no shortage of things needing fixing. Dean Baker is madder than me at lazy economic reporting. I’m thrilled he is. He’s completely right and it’s great to have people trying to change that.

                      Glad you’re making an appointment. Sorry to nag. I hate going to the doctor and haven’t in over a year. I think the most important skill in being a doctor is good listening, and not many have this. But there are some.

                    5. Frank Moraes

                      If we all cared about one thing, everything else would be neglected. Who was it who made this edict?

                      Today, my blood pressure was about 20 points higher than normal. I think this explains my feeling like I’m in a fog. But it has come down tonight. I’m going to check it tomorrow. I fear something is wrong. I’ve also lost a bit more than 10 pounds over the last 3 weeks. It’s all strange. Nothing has changed in my life style.

                    6. James Fillmore

                      It was the guy named “Kos.” And that’s fine. He prefers to keep fighting the 2016 Democratic nomination forever, it’s his site. But health care is my single-issue focus. It’s killed people I loved. I worked in that business for two decades. If you wanna tell people who care about that issue to go away, fine, I’ll go away. I’ve got baseball shit to work on. Until the Vox sports people tell me to go away. Which I suspect to be permanently imminent. And aren’t those two nice words to string together?

                    7. Frank Moraes

                      Markos Moulitsas? Yeah, I think power may have gone to his head. I’ve never liked the financial arrangement of the site, which as I understand it is that no one makes any money — except him. Although this is generally the case with the big blogs. And that more or less means those blogs that started at a particular time. Anyway, the thing is that the vast majority of the content is created for free. And someone is making a lot of money off it. It’s terrible because the internet was the first time I saw just how altruistic people were. And the main thing that happened when the internet became monetized was that people found ways to harness the work of others for their own monetary gain. It’s sad.

                    8. James Fillmore

                      I don’t know much about the site, I’d only just started lurking around when I left.

                      To me it depends on how much money the siterunner is making. I know on the Twins site I write at, the lady running it makes $400 a month. And it’s a full-time job; more when there are things like player trades going on. Then has to promote the site on Twitter & such. If the Kos guy is making $400 and working that hard, I don’t blame him for keeping it all. If he’s making a lot more, not sharing it is a jerk move.

                      And the thing is, the big Vox sports sites make way more. And those sites pay the mod decently, plus a little for the writers. If Vox was smarter, they’d use that money to pay people at smaller sites, to build them up. This mod put out a request for additional writers and got swamped, lots of talented applicants. They all wanted money, and there is none. But since when do companies actually demonstrate intelligence?

                    9. Frank Moraes

                      DailyKOS is huge. On Alexa, they are generally about the 2,000th most popular site in the world (they get more popular around elections). So I figure Markos is doing well. But I don’t know. It’s possible all the money goes into helping people get elected. But I don’t think so. According to Wikipedia, it is now owned by Vox Media.

                      On a professional site, people normally get paid as professionals. Sure, things are not as good for writers and editors as they were 40 years ago. But I make a living wage. The writers I work with make a living wage. I suspect Vox thinks it can get away with not doing that because it is sports and people like it. Of course, Twinkie Town has an Alexa rating of only about 300,000 — and in the off-season it doesn’t get any more traffic than Frankly Curious. So there’s that.

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