Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dude, Check Out My Bulging Bracket

March Madness: the one time of year when the copyeditor isn’t the only one who thinks brackets are interesting. Last year, this was how I participated in all the talk about checking out each other’s brackets.

This year? I’ve found something better.


Do you know where the word bracket comes from? (Yeah, I know. This is as close as I can get to caring about college sports.)

The way March Madness diehards use bracket comes from the fact that round robin-type tournament maps look like the typographical symbols [ and ]. And those got their name from the fact that they look like the two-sided supports used in carpentry. And those brackets got their name from the architectural brackets that, back in the day, weren’t just lines at right angles. They had, um, bulges. See?

In back, it’s just the simple right-angle support, but the flourish is covering it. In the sixteenth century, people noticed the flourishes and thought they looked like another kind of bulge: the bragget, or as it’s known today, the codpiece. The resemblance between bracket and bragget most likely isn’t a coincidence. Like the bracket, the bragget is another type of necessary support, just specifically for the peen. And because it’s the peen, codpieces were also decorated with flourishes — you know, to enlarge what nature gave you and show everyone who’s boss. See?

This fancy gentleman probably wasn’t packing a weapon of quite so high a caliber as what his packaging would indicate. Thank the magic of the codpiece. Even more appropriate to this discussion of manly, dangling showiness? The word braggart, “an excessively boastful person,” comes from the Middle French brauguer, “to flaunt, brag,” which might come from the same word that gave English bragget: brague, “knee pants.”

So the next time you hear your coworker marvel at the fearsomeness of his brackets or inviting others to check out his brackets, I hope you think of what I think of: peens.

(Sources: Etymonline, The Inky Fool, The Lavender Linguist.)

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