At work, one of my duties is resetting passwords for users of the application I support.  When I get a password change request, I make a new password for the person.  “password” is too guessable, and changing the password (from the previous one) properly frustrates others who may have the original password.

To make a password, I pick an eight-letter word, change a letter to a similar numeral, and occasionally toss in a capital letter.

The hard part of this is the initial eight-letter word.  Fortunately there are web sites that have lists of X-letter words.  I saved one list to my hard drive, so I can load it up quickly when I need it.  This week I have used it extensively.

And that’s where I found a new word.  I’m a logophile, and a pretty severe one.  I may not know the definition of a word, or may disagree with the definition (motley comes to mind), but I have read most words before and have a sense of their flavor.  And of course growing up as the child of two school teachers during the phonics era helps me a lot.  So even though I hadn’t seen this word before, I knew how to pronounce it and knew what it meant.


I happen to be wrong about the meaning and the pronunciation, but aside from that . . .

I had linked it to potato and factory.  I’m aware that potatoes are not built (except, in a sense, by God).  The word conjures up the sense of a root cellar.  It brings to mind Shakespeare’s “to a nunnery, go”.  It does not bring to mind potion or potable.

So I am, linguistically at least, humbled and corrected.  I do not know everything, and my assumptions can be wrong.

Unless I can disprove the word’s origins.  Working around the whole “in print since the 1200s” thing is going to be a bit of a stretch, but I’ll give it a go.