Household gifts

Assembled in a group photo, three pleasingly thoughtful household gifts:

(#1) A penguin tea towel and a purple plant mister flanked by two hand-blown flared glasses

The tea towel with penguin slogan (the penguin is one of my totem animals) brought back from the New England Aquarium (in Boston) for me by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. The purple plant mister given to me by Kim Darnell (who found them on-line) to mist my mini-phal (which likes high humidity, but not wet roots). The flared glasses blown by Amanda Walker, who made them for me so I could grasp them firmly with my damaged right hand..

A little festival of household furnishings and English N + N compounds as well: tea towel, distantly related to tea (referring to the hot drink made from the leaves of the tea plant); the synthetic AGT compound plant mister; the synthetic PSP compound hand-blown; and the compound punty mark, the (totally opaque) name Amanda gave to the glassy scars at the bottom of the glasses.

And, oh yes, the idiom in the tea towel slogan. Let’s start with that.

Idiom time. The metaphorical idiom

march to one’s own beat, march to the beat of one’s own drum: ‘to do something, act, or behave in a manner that does not conform to the standard, prevalent, or popular societal norm’ (Farlex Dictionary of Idioms, 2015)

Also: march to the beat of a different drummer. (I don’t know the history.)

Penguins, with their march-like waddling, sometimes in group movements, provide natural illustrations of the idiom. Consider the movie March of the Penguins:


March of the Penguins (French La Marche de l’empereur) is a 2005 French feature-length nature documentary directed and co-written by Luc Jacquet, and co-produced by Bonne Pioche and the National Geographic Society. The documentary depicts the yearly journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. In autumn, all the penguins of breeding age (five years old and over) leave the ocean, their normal habitat, to walk inland to their ancestral breeding grounds. (Wikipedia link)

Tea towels. For the object in the background of #1, I prefer tea towel (or tea-towel or teatowel), though it’s not the term I grew up with (dish cloth, or in my Pa. Dutch grandmother’s version, dish clout); but I think that’s the term Ann Daingerfield (Zwicky) used, and it certainly was the ordinary term when I lived in the UK. In any case, it’s very much not transparent semantically: what does the towel (of an especially absorbent fabric used for drying dishes, without leaving lint on glasses and the like) have to do with tea?

Cobbled together from NOAD2 and OED2:

noun tea towel: chiefly British term for dish towel [or dish cloth]. Also OED2 tea-towel (and teatowel) = tea-cloth ‘a cloth used for wiping tea-things after washing them’ [tea-things ‘the articles used for serving tea at table, as tea-pot, milk-jug, sugar-basin, cups, saucers, plates, etc., together forming a tea-set or tea-service’]

Tea-things are used for serving tea, and then tea towels are used for drying tea-things after they’ve been washed, so tea towel is a couple of degrees removed from tea referring to the hot drink, and a further degree removed from the leaves of the tea plant.

The purple plant mister. Parsed

[purple] [plant mister]. not

[purple plant] [mister]

(just like “Purple people eater” in the song). And involving the

AGT synthetic compound plant mister ‘device for misting plants’ (incorporating the DO plant of the V mist)

verb mist: cover with [causative] or become covered with [inchoative] mist; [specialized sense] spray (something, especially a plant) with a fine cloud of water droplets

This particular mister, in glorious purple glass, serves to humidify the world of a mini-phalaenopsis orchid plant. See my 4/24/17 posting “A mini-phal”.

Hand-blown flared glass. My right hand, having suffered considerable nerve damage in the Great Necrotizing Fasciitis Disaster of 2003, doesn’t do well at grasping ordinary (round) glasses, though square glasses have corners that provide some purchase. But flared glasses like those in #1 are the best; many thanks to Amanda for making a couple of them for me.

On the PSP synthetic compound:

hand-blown ‘blown by hand’ (incorporating the PO hand [with P by] of the V blow)

verb blow: (of a person) expel air through pursed lips; [specialized sense] force air through a tube into (molten glass) in order to create an artifact

Punty marks. Being hand-blown, my flared glasses have glassy scars on their bottoms.

From Wiktionary:

(#3) Blowpipe pontil scar on the base of an 1850 “calabash” bottle

noun pontil mark (also punty mark, punt mark, pontil scar): A ring-shaped or irregular scar on a glass object from where it was joined with a pontil or blowpipe. Common on bottles prior to the 1830s.

And from NOAD2:

noun punty (also pontil): (in glassmaking) an iron rod used to hold or shape soft glass. ORIGIN mid 17th century: from French pontil [apparently from Italian pontello ‘small point,’ diminutive of punto]

I said, “You glassblowers must have a name for this bit of glass on the bottom here”, and Amanda said she called them punty marks. A totally opaque lexical item for specialists; that’s just what they’re called. Most of us, of course, don’t need a name, but then we’re not glassblowers.

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