Another of our Twelve Thousand Words, by Karen Jeynes

I decided I’d take on the challenge of a verb for this installment of Twelve Thousand Words, because verbs are amazing too – in fact these days, all the nouns are trying to be verbs. Verbs are the new black.

Assuage means to appease, calm, or mollify. The alternative spelling has tragically fallen out of use, as it used to also be written as asswage, from the Middle English aswagen. I wonder if those with the surname Van Aswegen are therefore very good at calming things down? Aswagen comes from the French assouagier, which in turn comes from the Latin assuaviare, to sweeten. This makes suave a distant cousin of assuage.

Things that are commonly assuaged include guilt, fear and concern. There’s an apt Isabel Allende quote: ‘“This is to assuage our conscience, darling” she would explain to Blanca. “But it doesn’t help the poor. They don’t need charity; they need justice.”’

I was thrilled to find a poem by someone rejoicing in the pen name of “George BernardBloodyShaw” entitled “Assuaging of a sausage”. Despite sausage and assuage being anagrams, if you trace sausage’s etymological lineage far enough back you will arrive at the Latin salsus, meaning salted, the antithesis of assuage.

Assuaging of a Sausage

Here I sit
all alone
a lonely sausage
in a jar
in my sight
I see from afar
a jarring fright
it’s a whole jar
of sausages
Oh! sausages
and fromages
I’ll not be beaten
tho’ I love
my life
I would behove
to be eaten
tho’ I think
I’ll still fight
to be in that
jar from afar
please dip me
in thar
to share my sausage skin
with a lady sausage within
assuage my needs
as my heart bleeds
for a needy
lady sausage…

George BernardBloodyShaw


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