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CAISSON

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CAISSON

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:46 pm

• caisson •

Pronunciation: kay-sên, kay-sahn • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A camel: an underwater compartment pumped free of water used to raise sunken objects or to work on bridge foundations. 2. A chest or container for ammunition or other explosives. 3. A horse-drawn wagon formerly used to carry ammunition but currently used to carry coffins at military funerals.

Notes: The spelling of today's word is odd because it was borrowed from French rather recently (around 1700) and has retained its French spelling. Remember the silent I and double S when you spell it.

In Play: The shift in meaning of today's Good Word has had an ironic effect on the famous Army song, "The Caissons Go Rolling Along":
Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And the caissons go rolling along.
This word has always been indirectly associated with death, but today it is almost exclusively used with that reference: "The nation mourned as the caisson bearing the body of President Kennedy passed across our television screens." Of course, should you ever lay a foundation below water level, you will need the other type of caisson: "Architects learned a lot about caisson safety from the building of the Brooklyn Bridge."

Word History: The meanings above are ordered chronologically to show how the sense of today's word wandered from an underwater box to a carriage for a coffin. Caisson "large box" is an augmentative of French caisse "cash box", from which English also gets its word cash. Caisse is the French form of Latin capsa "box, case", a noun derived from capere "to take, hold", whose root also underlies capture and captivate. The original Proto-Indo-European root developed into German haben and English have, since the PIE [k] sound developed into English [h] in initial position and [gh] elsewhere in words. All these words are things that hold or are held. (Today we are beholden to Chris Berry for suggesting we write up this captivating word.)
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:23 pm

Of course the first thing I looked up when I got to AD was "camel." After the animal, the second definition was:
device used to raise sunken objects, consisting of a hollow structure that is submerged, attached tightly to the object, and pumped free of water. Also called caisson.
I had never heard the term "camel" used that way before. With my muddled mind, you can imagine the image that would have arisen on hearing the song. I would have seen a military caravan with horse trailers carrying hump-backed animals!
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Re: CAISSON

Postby MTC » Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:39 pm

No discussion of caisson would be complete without mention of "caisson disease," or Decompression Sickness ("DCS.")
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decompression_sickness

I learned about the subject firsthand while serving on a nuclear submarine. Some men washed out of sub school when they failed the high pressure air chamber test or bouyant free ascent. I had the unpleasant experience of watching blood oozing from the ears of a fellow testee when his eardrums burst. Just attempting to qualify posed some degree of risk.
Caisson workers on the Brooklyn Bridge suffered quite a bit before the phenomenon was completely understood and preventive measures taken.
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Slava » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:51 pm

Well, this has become a deep conversation.

By the by, was it not Abraham Lincoln who held a patent on a camel? An inflatable pontoon-based method of raising boats over shoals, or getting them off sand bars they were stuck on?
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:54 pm

Move Latin "capsa" to Spanish and I think you get “caja”. Caja means box in Spanish. There is a landmark mesa in South Texas that is called San Cajo. This is a folk rendering of the real name Sin Caja. I could see this mesa from the top of the windmill on our farm. Sin means without. The legend is that a box of gold was emptied into a hole at the base of the mesa. Many people have searched for this fabled treasure. Southwestern writer, J Frank Dobie mentions this "treasure" in his writings, I think in "Coronado's Children". This is quite an excursion from "caisson", but it is where my rambling mind took me. Have I gone down a rabbit hole or been chasing rabbits?

Shipley traces these words to the PIE "kap" meaning to hold or contain.
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Jeff hook » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:04 am

by Slava » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:51 pm

By the by, was it not Abraham Lincoln who held a patent on a camel? An inflatable pontoon-based method of raising boats over shoals, or getting them off sand bars they were stuck on?...


The Internet Archive provides an online scanned copy of the Lincoln patent, Buoying vessels over shoals: specification forming part of Letters patent no. 6,469, dated May 22, 1849, which seems to have been three pages in length. (Click on the yellowed pages to "flip" them.)

Other details are provided at the Archive's context page for this document and the Archive itself is explained at this page.

Wikipedia has the low-down

As they often do, they provide some excellent illustrations, including:

Image

More information's provided here.
Last edited by Jeff hook on Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:30 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Jeff hook » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:19 am

by Philip Hudson » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:54 pm

Move Latin "capsa" to Spanish and I think you get “caja”. Caja means box in Spanish...


In Spain caja is used to refer to savings banks.

Savings bank (Spain)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In Spain, a savings bank (Spanish: caja de ahorros or informally just caja, Catalan: caixa d'estalvis, Galician: caixa de aforros, informally 'caixa', Basque: aurrezki kutxa) is a financial institution which specializes in accepting savings deposits and granting loans. Their original aim was to create the habit of thrift amongst the very poor but they have evolved to compete with and rival commercial banks.

Their trade association is the Spanish Confederation of Savings Banks (Confederación Española de Cajas de Ahorro or CECA)...


The term is used often now in reports of the Spanish sovereign debt crisis.
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Re: CAISSON

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:11 am

One would think savings bank in Spanish would be banco de ahorross instead of caja de ahorros. That is up to the Spanish. I am pretty sure a TexMex speaker would not know what caja de ahorros means since he would be thinking about any kind box. He might think it was a safe you had in your house. I will check with my brother, the final authority on TexMex, about this.
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