Word of the Week (149) : SPARABLE (probability 16897), by David Sutton

You might think that SPARABLE is an adjective meaning 'that can be spared', but this is not the case: it is a kind of small headless nail used by shoemakers, being a corruption of 'sparrow-bill', (referring to its shape), and as such it naturally takes an -S hook.

Quick quiz: the other three anagrams of SPARABLE are?

SPARABLE is by no means the only -ABLE or -IBLE word that may surprise you by taking an S. Nobody, of course, is going to think twice about VALUABLE/VALUABLES, but would you be so confident of HORRIBLES, SENSIBLES, TANGIBLES, VISIBLES, RELIABLES, DURABLES, PAYABLES, EDIBLES, DRINKABLES and SOCIABLES? They are all good, and they are all simply instances of the adjective being used nounally ('my racks in that game were a succession of horribles'), except for SOCIABLES: a SOCIABLE is actually a four-wheeled open horse-drawn carriage with side seats facing each other.

Trusting, as usual, that my readers, if not already among the ERUDITES, are at the least among the EDUCABLES...


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