Friday, June 5, 2009

Golden baubles

There's nothing more useless than a Wingwam.

When I was a child, if I persisted in asking "What are you making, Dad?", he would reply with a wry smile, "a wigwam for a gooses bridle." Occasionally he used the phrase to explain that some purchase was totally useless. Said in the same breath as "a bump on a log", "a third wheel for a bicycle" or a "second mouth".

The words made no sense at the time. As a 15-year old, exploring the English language, in all its 600,000 word glory, I would conjure up the image of early settlers attempting to trade/exchange an American Indian domestic dwelling for a device to steer a useless as attempting to take a cat for a walk. Much later in life I learned there were many versions of the word "wigwam", including "whim-wham" and "wingwam", my preferred spelling. My favorite meaning is "a golden bauble for a prostitute's hat". Probably wrong. But it brings to mind a hypothetical retrospective response from my mother, who would probably issue orders to all seven of us to "wash our mouths out" for using such shameful language.

Wingwam. Decorative, somewhat naughty and totally useless. Like this column.

Question: What's the most useless, but decorative or even naughty object, activity or idea you have ever encountered?

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