Read Old Man Scanlon

Words from Grampa

22 January 2014

There are words as good as forgotten through disuse and resurrected by chance, words acquired in my fishing days when I had scarcely attained double-digit years, before I even knew the definition of vocabulary: Wulff, hellgrammite, Neversink. There are words that, like the unexpected advent of a hummingbird, trigger a smile, which I will pit against cellar door and Shenandoah any day: Kattegat and Skagerrak (always the pair, and they always remind me of Shagrat and Gorbag), zouave, myrmidon, erysipelas. The oldest words delight me most, words with a provenance, burnished by long service, words my grandfather taught me: peacock herl, ginkgo, caltrop, wapiti, stiletto—as in my crudely-glued plastic model Douglas X-3 Stiletto that sat on my grandparents’ television. Unlike its prototype, the model did not end its days in a museum.