• pomander •
po-mæn-dêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A hollow, perforated ball containing pot-pourri or other aromatic substances, hung in a closet, wardrobe, or placed in a drawer. 2. The contents of such a ball.
Notes: Historically pomanders were hung from a chain around the neck as deodorants or for protection against disease. Modern deodorants made the first use obsolete and modern medicine made the second application unnecessary.
In Play: Anyone wearing pomanders today would be out of step with time: "Maude Lynn Dresser doesn't trust modern deodorants; she always wears a small pomander around her neck." However, pomanders are still placed in chests of drawers, wardrobes, and closets: "Have you ever noticed the fruity smell of Agnes' clothes? I think she puts pomanders in her wardrobes."
Word History: Today's Good Word is one that reflects how far the English-speaking world has come in its spelling and usage. Middle English pomendambre was an alteration of Old French pome d'embre "apple of amber" from Medieval Latin pomum de ambra. This phrase comprises pomum "apple, (eye)ball" (from Latin pomum "fruit of any kind) + de "of" + ambra "amber". The phrase "apple of the eye" goes back to the time when the pupil was colloquially called the apple. German Augapfel "eyeball" is literally "eye-apple". (Pupil comes from Latin pupilla "girl, doll", referring to the reflection of oneself visible in the pupils of others.) Pome turns up again in pomegranate from Old French pome "apple" + granate "seedy, full of seeds" and, of course, French pomme de terre "potato", literally "apple of the earth". (Let's all thank William Hupy for recommending today's aromatic Good Word.)