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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

The results of last week’s poll were an overwhelming majority to ink.




1. A fluid or viscous substance used for writing or printing.

2. A dark, protective fluid ejected by the cuttlefish and other cephalopods.

3. Informal. Publicity, especially in print media: Their construction plans got some ink in the local paper.

4. Slang. Cheap red wine.

5. Slang. A tattoo. (The same as paint.) :  When do you get the new ink?

6. Slang. Tattoos in general; the amount of tattooing on someone’s body. (The same as paint.) :  He’s got ink covering his back.

Verb (used with object)

7. To mark, stain, cover, or smear with ink: to ink one’s clothes.

8. Slang. To sign one’s name to (an official document): We expect to ink the contract tomorrow.


1200–50; From Middle English inke, enke, which is derived from Old French enque, from Late Latin encautum, variant of encaustum, meaning purple ink, originally Greek énkauston: purple ink, from enkaiein; to burn in.


Ink is beautiful. The mere thought of it evokes images of beautiful calligraphic script, or the deep rich scent of it as you unscrew the lid of an ink pot, or the pungent, viscous, thick black liquid inside.

Of course, modern stationary has deprived us of the joy of ink; perhaps this makes it all the more special on the rare occasion we use it or see it being used today.

The word ink perfectly suits the black shiny pots of liquid. The way the /ŋk/ is realised at the very back of the mouth, on the soft palate, the monosyllabic, heavy dense weight of the word.

It does not suit the bic biros of today.

It does, however, suit the slang definitions it has acquired over time. The thick potency of cheap red wine. The dark permanence of a Gothic tattoo (not, however, the tattoo of a flower or “mum”).

It belongs to its convoluted, meandering path through time, to its historical, classical roots. It belongs to school children from years ago, with ink on their fingers. It belongs to the passion of Eidfrith, spending a lifetime copying out the gospels by hand. It belongs to the wizards and witches of Hogwarts and other mythical places.

It does not, and never will, belong to the pens of today.