"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 15 January 2010


In Charles Dickens’ ‘Tom Tiddler’s Ground’ there is a hermit who wears a blanket and skewer. What, I wondered, was a skewer?

To me a skewer is a long pin for holding meat in position while it is being roasted or a similarly pointed pin of metal or wood used to hold small pieces of food together.

A skewer is also a metal bar with a cam action lever which clamps the hub of the wheel into the frame.

A skewer can also be a wooden peg or spindle on which bobbins of roving are held in a creel. [The creel is the rack for holding roving or yarn on any textile machine. Roving is the loosely twisted strand of cotton fibres from the time it leaves the slubber until it goes through the spinner frames and becomes yarn. (The slubber is a machine which draws out strands of sliver and twists them together loosely in order to give the strands sufficient strength to withstand subsequent operations.) Isn't it fascinating how every word one learns leads on to another one...]

But what was the hermit’s skewer? I assume it was a pin which was used to hold the blanket together – perhaps having its origin in the skewer which was a long upholsterers' pin with a ring at the end.



  1. You're right, looking up one word is like tossing a pebble in a pool -- the rings spread outward leading you into new and uncharted places!
    Canadian Chickadee