February 26, 2014

A Wondrous Word

This has been a very busy week for me--I spent Monday with my little SuperPreschooler, yesterday chasing housing possibilities and doing some DIY around my friend's basement, where I'm staying right now, and today is about filling out endless paperwork for the government--so there's been virtually no reading. As I have no new words to offer for Wondrous Words Wednesday, I thought I would let you in on a little secret that you may not know about the very word "secret," as well as the word "secrete."

I discovered this fact several years ago, thanks to my obsessive Anglophile viewing habits, while watching the delightful little British comedy, The Thin Blue Line. Rowan Atkinson (of Mr. Bean fame) stars as the senior officer in a local British police constabulary, and in the episode entitled The Queen's Birthday Present, has the following exchange during a training exercise with one Constable Goody.
(Atkinson): Walk towards me. Oops, I do beg your pardon.
(Subordinate): - It's quite all right, sir.
Not all right for you, I fear, Goody, because I have relieved you of the contents of your pocket. In this case, a Mars bar. Constable Goody, a Mars bar is scarcely police equipment, is it?
- No, sir.
"No, sir," indeed, sir. Are there any other items of confectionery secreted about your person?
-No, sir. 
And by that you mean?
-I've got a Curly Wurly in my truncheon pouch.
In that case, get it out before it melts and soils the queen's trousers.
-It's not going to melt, is it? It's going to get eaten.
Great jangling jehovah, it is not! I've never heard of such a thing. I will not have my officers gorging themselves whilst on duty. Hand it over. Now sit down.
(Text courtesy of the site Springfield! Springfield!)

The implication of this dialog is as follows:

1. The word "secrete" has two completely unrelated meanings. The first is that we usually think of, i.e. an organism producing a chemical of some kind. For example, the human body secretes endorphins into the bloodstream when we experience pain, to help us cope with the discomfort. The second meaning, however, involves hiding something away in the hope that others won't discover it.

2. "Secret" is a very common noun--"I have a secret."--and we are all familiar with its adjectival form, as well, e.g. "We have a secret plan to give Bob a 40th birthday party." However, it also has a verb form, namely "to secrete," to hide something away. If you already knew that, forgive me for spending so much time on repeat information. But if you didn't, I think you'll agree with me that our wonderful language never ceases to surprise.

Happy wording!


  1. A good word (or words) to mention as the difference in meaning is often missed.

  2. I had no idea there was a verb form of secret! It's interesting that they added the e to it.

  3. Interesting post. I have confused the two words and meanings in my reading a couple of times. I think my eyes just missed that sneaky little e at the end of secrete.

  4. Clever choice, I also have had a busy week and only posted one word but I do feel a bit slack after reading your excellent post.


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