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Q From Fern Russell of the Deakin University Library, Australia: Do you have a meaning or explanation for the word rhykenology?

A The word is not in any dictionary that I can lay my physical or electronic hands on. But the related word rhykenologist does turn up online a few times in contexts where it seems to refer to someone who collects or studies woodworking tools, especially planes. My ancient Greek being rather less good than my Latin, if that were even possible, I contacted Rosamund Ions, a classically-trained lexicographer who works for Oxford Dictionaries. She says that in Greek rhykane (the e should have a macron over it) means “a plane”, in the sense of the woodworking tool. So strictly, therefore, the word ought to be rhykanology. It’s pretty obviously one of those invented terms that collectors so delight in which stretch the resources of the classical languages nearly to breaking point — such as tegestology for collecting beer mats, arctophily for teddy bears, or even copoclephily for key-rings — and which are only really taken seriously by those who indulge in the hobby concerned, and sometimes not even then.

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Page created 25 Jul 1998