There is an entire genre of words that seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting the writers of crossword puzzles out of jams. Second rate atheletes and actors are enshrined in memory, not for their work, but because their short three or four letter name makes them a perfect fit. UMA Thurman will be remembered long after Pulp Fiction. MILO O’SHEA (who apparently is not second rate but I couldn’t recognize him) is known to me only as Actor Milo, or Actor O’Shea. Giants great, Mel OTT, will be known by as many crossword fans as baseball fans.
Just as people live on, so do words. Why do I know what an etui is? Have I ever seen one before? yes, but not knowingly. Only when I was stymied by Will Shortz three times in the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, did I finally learn what this is.
An etui is a fancy name for a fancy case designed to hold needles and other sewing supplies. They come in many different shapes and forms, but commonly seem to open like a flower as this one can demonstrate.
Interestingly enough, such a cute little thing comes from the French word estui, or prison. While the origin comes from a case that shuts up or imprisons sewing material, I like to imagine a similar etui full of torture implements maybe used on prisoners in this chair. Also interesting, according to the Oxforad American Dictionary, the plural of etui used to be etweese, which was shortened to tweeze, whence we gain the term tweezers.
Is there anyone out there who knew this word outside of crossword puzzles? What are your other favorite Crosswordese words?
P.S. For those of you who are crossword puzzle fans, I recommend Rex Parker’s daily review of the Times’s crossword puzzle. It is one of the best ways to actually improve your puzzling.