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Stave

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Stave

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:08 pm

• stave •


Pronunciation: stayv • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To crush, especially inward, to push or cave (in) violently, to jam, as to stave in a finger. 2. To break up or puncture staves, as to stave in a barrel or a wooden boat. 3. (with off) To repel or prevent, as to stave off hunger.

Notes: This word is used more often in some dialect areas than others. As a result, its past tense form, stove, is often confused with the present tense. Remember: "I never stave my finger but yesterday I stove it pretty badly." This happens when something hits the end of an extended finger and jams it. (Staved also serves in the past tense these days.) We may also stave off something unpleasant. This means to repel it, prevent it from happening, as to stave off hunger with a crust of bread.

In Play: The original sense of this word was the act of breaking up or caving in the staves of barrels: "During Prohibition, staving liquor and wine was a major task of law enforcement officers." Notice we do not even need to mention "barrels" in this sense. In the US this word is also used in the sense of jamming a finger or similar object, pushing it inwards: "When Slick fell forward, he extended his hands for protection and stove in one of his fingers."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from the noun stave, in the sense of a barrel stave. Stave, in its turn, is a back-formation from the old plural of staff, which was staves, similar to life and lives. Hence the original sense of today's word is "to break in or up the staves of a barrel". It was then expanded to breaking up the planks of a wooden boat and thence to breaking up anything, especially by pushing it in. The original PIE root was stebh- "post, stem, support" which we see in Russian stebel' "stem". In German the same root produced Stab "staff" and Stamm "stem", and in Greek staphyle "grapevine". (Let's stave off any question of our gratitude to Joe Heckel for suggesting today's Good Word with this word of gratitude to him.)
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Re: Stave

Postby MTC » Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:34 am

Why does an object of such widespread historical use and benefit as a stave carry such negative meanings? After all, it takes a stave to make a barrel, doesn't it? (There's a good proverb for you!) And haven't barrels carried the world's goods solid and liquid since the time of the Celts or before? So why associate staves with "crushing," "preventing," etc? Why not meanings more positive, "holding," "supporting," "embracing," for instance? Let me know when you've got it figured out.

P.S. For "stave craft" (a neologism) see
http://www.stavingartist.com/
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Re: Stave

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:57 am

As kids we had a word for staving or stubbing your finger,
but it was not stave. A good case of "half-timers" this
morning, I cannot remember the word.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Stave

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:05 pm

We always spoke of jamming your finger, as the doc indicated. Don't remember calling it anything else. But we stubbed or stobbed our toes.
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Re: Stave

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:10 pm

Yes, I've heard of 'jamming' the finger. But ours was something
else. It'll come to me, hm,hm,hm.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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