Nov 29, 2010

WORD OF THE WEEK: Camber & Crown

Summary: With a nod to the newly-engaged Prince William of the U.K., we look at some really royal-sounding words ... with surprisingly pedestrian meanings.

Thanksgiving may be over in 2010, but that doesn't mean we can just stop being thankful. I'm personally grateful to my friends at, who continue to give me so many wonderful words—including two this week to share with you. These come from Volume 2 of their "Words For Things You Didn't Know Have Names" list. (Remember philtrum from Volume 1?)

The first of this week's WOW words is crown. Sounds regal, doesn't it? But according to the list, it has a meaning you probably couldn't guess ... unless you work for the Department of Transportation:

Crown (KROWN) - The highest point in a road.

Come again? Excuse me? You mean to say roads aren't flat? That's right. Roads are built to slope at the shoulder, so that rain water and other spillage runs off, and so that cars can hug the road on curves at turns. On a two-lane road, with slopes on either side, there is a peak in the middle where the lanes meet. This is the crown, or the high point. Taken from the Latin word corona (which was originally a curved wreath or garland), crown moved on to mean anything curved—like the Greek laurels worn in decorative honor by scholars and athletic champions. And from there, it eventually defined the headpieces of royalty. ( can also tell you in more detail about crown's verb forms.) It's from this concept—think "crowning glory"—that the highest point in the road is called a crown.

Now I know you're wondering, "Do the slopes in the road have names?" But of course!

Camber (KAM - ber) - The curving slope of a road's surface that allows water to drain off. From the French word cambre, meaning curved, camber can also be used as a verb, as in "to arch slightly or curve upward in the middle."

And by the way, if you want another bonus word, try looking up pedestrian. It matches this week's WOW theme.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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