Wednesday’s Word: Nook & Cranny
nook & cranny
Well, you get two words this week. And most of you are probably familiar with them. They are often used together and frequently can be found on the lips of mothers to admonish their children to a more spirited level of cleaning. Not just a passing straightening up of a disorganized room, but a good thorough scouring until every “nook and cranny” has been attended to.
I think most of us have a vague notion of what a nook and cranny are, but just to be sure, a nook is defined as a corner or a recess or somewhere secluded. This word has its origins in Middle English. Today it has a sort of cozy connotation which may be why Barnes & Noble chose that name for their e-reader, the Nook. I’ve never actually seen one of those devices in person so I’m not sure how “nookish” they really are, but I certainly think it’s a great name for a book-reading device and I’m happy to offer my books on that platform.
Cranny on the other hand is defined as a small, narrow space and this word comes to us by way of the French. The word it comes from, crener, means “notch or split”. For me, it brings to mind old wooden floors in a pantry or some forgotten place you squeezed yourself into as a child while exploring your grandmother’s house.
I’m not entirely certain of how these two words came to be joined together in the phrase “nook and cranny”, but one possible explanation is that this usage developed during the time of Norman dominance in England. Commoners would use their customary word “nook” and combine it with the French approximation “cranny” which was used by the ruling class. Used in this way, it might have been seen as a means to improve communication between the two groups.
Well, thankfully the days of being ruled by a French-speaking upper class are behind us but these two lovely words remain. They can be a lot of fun, though they can create confusion amongst certain children, apparently. I’ll leave you with a humorous take on this situation with a short video clip. The jokes about nooks and crannies come at the beginning before he moves on to talk about other things, but they should bring a smile to your face if they don’t make you laugh outright. Enjoy.