I was recently looking through a math book, which is where I happened across a torus, a geometric shape that resembles a doughnut. And while I’ve never heard anybody ordering a jelly torus at the local bakery, I started thinking (and I’ll admit it’s quite a leap) about the unusual names or alternate terms for some of the things that we see and use every day.

So join me won’t you, as I amble through what for me is a typical day — one during which I wonder, “There must be a name for this thing” or “What’s that called?”

It starts with breakfast, which begins with me pulling a banana off the hand (bunch) and peeling it, being careful to pull off all the phloem bundles (those stringy things). Then I cook an egg sunny side up, but notice that the albumin (egg white) is runny as I sit down to read the paper’s agate (tiny 5 1/2-point type) page with all the sports data. I’m running late on the first day of my new job, so I’ll grab a coffee on the way, and be sure to get a zarf (sleeve) so I don’t burn my hand.

Hurriedly, I squeeze a nurdle (dab) of toothpaste onto the brush as I try to brush my teeth and get dressed at the same time. I have trouble getting the tongue (pin) through the hole in my belt and the rest through the keeper (that loop near the buckle) while also attempting to thread the aglets (tips) of my new shoelaces through the eyelets of my sneakers.

I make it to the bus stop just in time. Safely on board, I lean my head on the headrest’s antimacassar (protective piece of fabric), and now have time to look out the window as the bus wallows along its route. I see the letter carrier in his LLV (long life vehicle or mail truck) and the UPS driver in her package car (big brown truck) as she hurries to make her deliveries.

Upon arriving at my new workplace I’m completely lost. Fortunately I spot a map with an ideolocator (a “you are here” arrow) and find my desk just as the boss arrives with a stack of papers. “Check this report over, word guy,” he grumbles. “Let’s see if you’re as good as you think you are.”

With no computer in sight, I grab a pen, but the nib (tip) is broken, so I start writing with a pencil only to discover that the eraser is worn down to the ferrule (that metal piece at the end). By lunchtime, I’m finally happy with my work. I only hope that the boss can decipher my griffonage (unreadable handwriting).

At lunch my German friend Claus orders “ein Bier,” so I order a beer too. When they arrive we both wonder, between the barm (foam) and the punt (depression in the bottoms of our mugs) just how much beer we’re actually getting.

From the shadow cast by the sundial’s gnomon, I can see that it’s time to get back to work and finish up.

At the end of the day, Claus calls and offers me a ride home. When I ask him what kind of car he drives, he says “A Taurus, why?”

“No thanks,” I say. “I’ll take the bus.”

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.”


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