Wednesday, March 08, 2006

nowt as queer as Polk

Arthur Scargill’s father, according to Arthur Scargill, according to the Sunday Times, according to the Penguin Writers manual, according to Woolly Days, read the dictionary every day in order to learn a new word.

This is excellent advice.

More good advice from the manual is to immediately put the word to use.

So here goes, let’s take a dip into the dictionary.

Casually landing on the 'po' page, a po-faced Woolly Days discovers that a powan, for example, is a freshwater whitefish (Coreogonus Clupeoides) which lives in Scottish lakes.

A fish of the same name is a type of vendace which are also whitefish. Powan is a Scottish variation on the word ‘pollen’ which is the whitefish that live in Northern Irish lakes.

Pollen comes from the Old Irish word ‘poll’ which means lake. Having nothing to do with whitefish is the word ‘pollard’ which is an animal such sheep or deer which have had their horns or antlers removed.

Pollard comes from the Old German word for ‘head’. A Bombay duck, as I found out in a trivia contest last night, is also a fish, a lizard fish found in the Arabian Sea and is often served as an accompaniment to Indian curries so our preferred answer ‘food dish’ was actually correct in a secondary sense.

Working backwards from the various pollwords, the dictionary states that James Polk was the 11th US president serving between 1845 and 1849 (the year of his death).

Texas and California were added to the union during his watch as was territory now included in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon.

Polk was what was called a Jacksonian Democrat, he was house leader under Andrew Jackson and speaker during the Van Buren administration. He defeated Henry Clay in a close election in 1844. During his regime he settled an Oregon border dispute with Britain, he fought the Mexican War and restored the Independent Treasury System. His poor health prevented him from running for a second term and he died shortly after retirement.

There was no time for him to enter an old Polk's home. Sorry about that.

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