• clod •
klahd • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A lump of earth or clay. 2. A dullard, a dolt, a stupid person.
Notes: Today's Good Word has been around forever and has a large and thriving family. There are at least two adjectives, cloddish "like a clod" (either type), and cloddy "full of clods" (usually a field). Someone accustomed to walking over freshly plowed fields is a clod-hopper, a remnant of the disrespect we have historically held for those who feed us (farmers). The same term may be used for the rough shoes you would wear when walking over a freshly plowed field.
In Play: Today is Earth Day, first celebrated April 22, 1970. It is a good day to turn a few clods of earth and plant a tree. Why the birthday of V. I. Lenin was chosen to celebrate the environment isn't exactly clear, but we hope that Earth Day will long survive the memory of the founder of the USSR: "The reason I took Bert out to lunch today is that it is Earth Day, and on Earth Day I like to do something nice for a clod."
Word History: Today's Good Word, clod, first appeared in the 14th century as a variant of clot. The two forms were long entirely synonymous but later parted company, the typical senses becoming what they are today. By 1579 clod referred to the human body, motivated by the Biblical idea that Adam was made of dirt (adom means "red" in Hebrew and the corresponding feminine noun, adama, means "earth"), but the reference quickly slid to "country bumpkin". By the way, German Klotz "chunk, block" is a related word that passed into Yiddish, whence English fetched it, pronouncing it klutz. (Our long-time friend, Larry Brady, thought this word might be a good-natured way to celebrate the Mother of us all. Happy Earth Day all.)