• shampoo •
shæm-pu • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: This word should refer to fake poo but, as we all know, it doesn't. 1. Rather, it refers to soap or detergent used to wash shaggy or potentially shaggy things like your hair, animals, rugs, and carpets. It is sometimes applied to related objects, such as couches and drapes, associated with carpets. 2. It can also refer to the act of cleaning any of these objects, as a quick shampoo.
Notes: Words that we use often generally escape close examination and, if you think about it, this word should refer to something we would never think of putting on our heads. However, we are looking at this word today mostly for the remarkable trail it followed to get to where it is today. It may be used as a verb, of course, to shampoo the dog, carpet, my wig. Otherwise, it is treated as a regular English word: shampooer, shampooing, and so forth.
In Play: The most obvious use for this word is in reference to the substance we wash our hair with: "Maggie's new orange blossom shampoo cleaned her hair beautifully but now it attracts a swarm of bees wherever she goes." It can, however, also refer to the action of shampooing: "After giving her toy poodle a quick shampoo, Lucinda Head hurriedly loaded him in the microwave for a quick dry."
Word History: Today's Good Word was originally Hindi champo! "Press! Squeeze!" the imperative of champna "to press, squeeze". To press? To squeeze? Apparently, that is what Hindi masseurs did to British colonialists in the 18th century, for by the mid-18th century, shampoo meant "massage". In a Turkish bath, soap is the lubricant, so the word shampoo came to be associated with soap. Most massages ended with a hair wash and scalp massage. By the middle of the 19th century, the meaning of the soap used for a massage had narrowed to that of soap for washing the hair only. (We wouldn't want to wash Joe Heckel out of our hair, so let's thank him heartily for suggesting today's surprisingly Good Word.)
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