Words I Love: escutcheon

I’m a big fan of creating a series of posts on this blog, and so I am continuing to do so (and will continue to do so in the future – repetition be damned!). As you may already know, one of my greatest loves in life is words. I love the way they feel in my mouth, I love that we have a single sound to mean a certain thing and that we have so many of these in so many different languages that I could never list them all in my lifetime. So I’m going to talk about them.

There will be some overlap with my currently dormant Definition project (new images coming later this year, fingers crossed!), but all of it will be wholly new and lovely and I can’t wait to write these posts. In the spirit of not waiting, I am going to get cracking.


escutcheon – noun

  1. a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms
  2. a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation, around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch
  3. In medicine: the pattern of distribution of hair upon the pubic mound.
  4. A marking upon the back of a cow’s udder and the space above it (the perineum), formed by the hair growing upward or outward instead of downward. It was once taken as an index of milking qualities.
  5. The part of a ship’s stern where its name is displayed.
  6. A decorative and/or protective plate or bezel to fill the gap between a switch, pipe, valve, control knob, etc., and the surface from which it protrudes.
  7. The insignia around a doorknob’s exterior hardware or a door lock’s cosmetic plate.
  8. The depression behind the beak of certain bivalves; the ligamental area.

Origins: Latin – Anglo-Norman – Old French

I am going to note here that I only knew a few of the definitions before writing this entry, number three was not one of them and earned a raised eyebrow (or as much of one as I can muster with my feeble facial muscles). It was definitions 1, 2 and 6 that made me love this word for its meaning.

I didn’t realise that the metal ornament around a keyhole had a name, I didn’t realise there was a specific name for where the name of a ship goes. Even though they, and shields/emblems, are such vastly different things it managed to suit them. Somehow. Words are weird and wonderful and I love them. Escutcheon. Of course that’s what the bit of metal around a keyhole is called. Of course it is.

However, my love for it stemmed in actuality from Syfy’s rendition of Alice in Wonderland, titled simply Alice. Wherein the White Knight uses it in conversation in his wonderful voice. Unfortunately I can’t find a video nor a gif of it. I am saddened. You will have to take my word for it. Or watch Alice, which is great – you really should.

I just loved the way it sounded, then I said it myself and it’s just so fun to say. Try it. You’ll see. It’s such an awkward word, the spelling is awkward, saying it is awkward, I have now learnt that one of its meanings is awkward. I like awkward things. (Note: I do not like cringe-worthy awkward or obstinately awkward for the sake of being awkward. My meaning here is goofy awkward.) I, myself, am awkward, I always try to do things in the most awkward way possible because the straightforward ways of doing things just don’t occur to me, so I like words that sound awkward in the same way. If I dropped ‘escutcheon’ into conversation, I would wager that most people wouldn’t know what it meant. It’s quite awkward to drop into a conversation now that I think about it. I like that too.

Ah, words.

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