Monday, June 10, 2013

Plumb Pudding

The New York Times mentioned that someone had taken a “plumb job.” The writer probably meant a “plum” job, which would mean a job that was very desirable—especially one given as a reward.

A plumb, from the Latin plumbum (meaning the element lead), is “a lead weight on the end of a line used to establish a true vertical.”  By extension of this meaning, plumb can also be an adjective denoting “perfectly straight” (“The window frame isn’t plumb”) or an adverb meaning “without deviation, or absolutely” (“You are plumb crazy” or “I plumb forgot.”)

A plum, on the other hand, from the Latin prunum, is a purplish fruit, and,  because of its juicy sweetness, it can refer to any desirable thing.  Food companies are now trying to persuade us that the food product to which costive oldsters are partial, known for generations as a prune, should really be thought of as a dried plum, which is much more desirable.  After all, no one ever talks about handing out “prunes” as rewards. 

The only reward offered for the Bard of Buffalo Bayou is on a "Wanted" poster, followed by the words "Dead or Alive."  But someone (it must have been a vandal) has crossed out the word "alive."
            I think that I shall never hum 
            A tune as lovely as a plum, 
            A plum of gorgeous purple hue, 
            Upon whose skin rest pearls of dew. 

            A plum is tangy on the tongue, 
            Its many virtues go unsung, 
            I’d like to shout and beat a drum, 
            To spread the praises of the plum. 

            But juicy plums, I must agree, 
            Won’t help with regularity, 
            So if you want to go—and soon— 
            I guess you'd better have a prune.


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