Clothes horse: In 1788, a clothes horse referred to an upright wooden frame for hanging clothes to dry. The word appeared in the English language around the same time as “sawhorse”. In the mid-1800s, that meaning became more figurative, referring to a person whose sole function seems to be to show off clothes; a meaning that is still used today. This photo, which popped up in my Facebook feed, gives it a whole new meaning: a horse made from clothes. I love to see how words evolve over time.
My grandfather loved etymology, the derivation of words. When we came across an unfamiliar word, we would go to the huge (to my child’s eyes) dictionary in his office that told you the history of every word. I don’t remember now what that book was called. It was certainly much more than a dictionary, and given that it was at least 60 years old, there are a lot of words used today that it wouldn’t contain. I spent a lot of time studying words and reading another masterpiece of information, the Book of Knowledge — an encyclopedia series for children, that was first published in 1912. I don’t believe the series my grandparents had were quite that old, but they had an amazing collection of books. And remember, back in the dark ages, when I was a kid, the best way to entertain yourself was to wander the trails in the woods (something no one worried about), build card houses, play with Breyer horses, and read.