What does ‘marled’ mean?

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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: marled….

My adult children tease me about being a fashion disaster. Sure, I can “clean up” for speeches and meetings with clients, but I have little interest in clothes and makeup.

You might find it puzzling, then, that I was drawn to read the memoir of fashion great Isaac Mizrahi. I think it’s because, many years ago, I’d seen his 1995 documentary, Unzipped, and found it both interesting and fun. (“Fun’ counts more for me than ‘fashion’!)

I’m happy to report that his memoir, titled I.M — get it? His initials also equal the word “I’m” —  is almost as intriguing as his movie. His larger-than-life personality is easier to see in the film, but the dirt he dishes in the book is also highly amusing.

And he gave me my word of the week, marled. Here is how Mizrahi used it:

Behind him on a console were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen a massive bundle of marled pink peonies, his favorite flower, which were always kept around the studio, perfuming the days and looking like they were about to shed their petals in ecstasy.

As you can see in the photo of peonies, above, marled means mottled or streaked.

There are also other, different meanings of the word. In geology, for example, it refers to a friable earthy deposit consisting of clay and calcium carbonate, used especially as a fertilizer for soils deficient in lime.

In nautical terms, it can be used as a verb meaning to wind a marline rope (made of two-fiber strands, sometimes tarred), with every turn being secured by a hitch.

The etymology of the word meaning mottled is unclear but it appears to have been Scottish.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Nov. 20/19.

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