Saturday, October 15, 2011

Word of the day: loam

The word of the day is loam:

Etymology:  Old English lám neuter = Middle Dutch, Dutch leem , Middle Low German lêm , whence modern German lehm masculine; with different declension the word is found as Old High German leimo (masculine) (Middle High German leime , modern High German dialect leimen ); the Old Germanic forms *laimo- , *laimon- are from the root *lai- (:*lῑ- ) to be sticky, occurring also in lair n.2; for cognates in other ablaut-grades see lime n.1 
1.a. Clay, clayey earth, mud; occas. ‘earth’ or ‘clay’ as the material of the human body. Obs. 
b. Used loosely for: Earth, ground soil. arch. 
2. Clay moistened with water so as to form a paste capable of being moulded into any shape; spec. a composition of moistened clay and sand with an admixture of horse-dung, chopped straw, or the like, used in making bricks and casting-moulds, plastering walls, grafting, etc.
3. A soil of great fertility composed chiefly of clay and sand with an admixture of decomposed vegetable matter.

"This was indeed the Egypt of the Confederacy,—the rich granary whence potatoes and corn and cotton poured out to the famished and ragged Confederate troops as they battled for a cause lost long before 1861. Sheltered and secure, it became the place of refuge for families, wealth, and slaves. Yet even then the hard ruthless rape of the land began to tell. The red-clay sub-soil already had begun to peer above the loam. The harder the slaves were driven the more careless and fatal was their farming."

 - W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

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