What’s a ferrule?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: ferrule…

After hearing a radio interview with author Jonathan Lee I decided his novel, High Dive, would interest me. The book is a fictionalized re-telling of the 1984 attempt to kill British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while she was attending a Conservative Party  conference in Brighton.

Instead of focusing only on the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the perpetrators of the bombing, the book also examines the life of the owner of the hotel where the conference was being held. The Wall Street Journal praised the novel describing it as, “highly amusing and ultimately very moving . . . Lee draws the reader into his characters’ lives with such sympathy and affection that when that inevitable explosion occurs, its impact is all the more devastating.” I not only enjoyed the book but discovered my word of the week in it, ferrule. Here’s how the author used it:

“Roller coaster,” she said, and traced a wavy line in the air with the ferrule of her stick.

I’d never heard the word before but it refers to the metal tip at the end of an umbrella or walking stick. (You can see the one in my own umbrella in the photo, above.)

The etymology of the word is Old French, virelle, meaning “collar,” which in turn comes from Medieval Latin, viriola, meaning “bracelet,” from a Gaulish word meaning, “bent, crooked. ” The spelling is said to be influenced by Latin word for iron,  ferrum.

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