Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mister Xyster

One day I’ll find a useful word of the week that begins with “X.” One day.
xyster (ZIS-ter) — noun: a medical tool used for scraping bones.
Then again, you could well be a med student or a murderer, and this post could free you from the daily shame of having to ask colleagues for the “scrapey-scrape thing” as you go about your daily work. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, The word comes from the Greek xyein, “to scrape” and from there goes back to the Proto Indo-European base *kes-, also meaning “to scrape.” Xyster also happens to be a metal band, which shouldn’t be surprising, and part of the scientific name of the Southern banned guitarfish, also known as Zapteryx xyster. I’d guess some kind of scraping, if not outright bone-scraping, figures into this animal’s existence, not unlike the aforementioned med student or murderer. In fact, images of Zapteryx xyster are a lot easier to find online than those of the actual xyster instrument, so I’ll just give you the fish, which you should be nice to.

a scraper, not a strummer

Yes, there’s not a whole lot online about xyster, and what’s there isn’t all that interesting. Perhaps the most notable thing would be what I found on Wordnik, which helpfully noted that it was an anagram for sextry, which I didn’t know existed and which, in fact, is just a more salacious-sounding variant of sacristy. So there’s that.

Previous words of the week:
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