Friday’s Awesome Word — 11/04

gossamer

The time may come when it is necessary for you to describe something that you don’t quite have the word(s) for.  This is always a terribly regrettable occasion, and we at The Jet Fuel Review Blog would like to do everything in our power to avoid it.

Image (C) Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ischnura_heterosticta02.jpg. Do not copy or reproduce without crediting Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

The wings of a dragonfly, for example, may be somewhat hard to describe.  They are incredibly thin and fragile.  This makes them beautiful, of course, but also gives them a rather surreal quality, perhaps augmented by their transparency.  It’s as though they shouldn’t really be capable of the relatively magnificent mechanical task of whipping around with sufficient force to produce flight.

Although the dragonfly doesn’t know it, a good word to describe his wings would be gossamer (GAH’sum’er). This describes anything extremely fine in appearance or build, usually translucent or otherwise not-quite-solid in appearance.

Although gossamer is almost always used as an adjective, the word originated as a noun.  If you’ve ever seen dewdrops which appear to be floating between blades of grass and have bent down to take a look, you may have noticed an especially fine, rather clear, stringy material woven between the blades.  These exquisite cobwebs are actually gossamers.  They are so light that they will often be seen floating in the air.  (Unlike “regular” cobwebs, you may not even notice getting a gossamer stuck on your face.)

Similarly, veils and other fine, thin fabrics, or anything else extremely delicate in nature may be referred to as gossamer.  The essence of the word is in its reference to something almost too fine or thin to be believed, nearly magically so.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs.  Mark is an editor for The Jet Fuel Review and Blog.  He is an Aviation major, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer.  Mark is a sophomore and works a few hours a week as a tutor in the Writing Center in this school year.

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