WOTD: Slake

Word of the Day – Friday, April 2, 2010
Slake \SLAYK\,
1.To satisfy; to quench; to extinguish; as, to slake thirst.
2.To cause to lessen; to make less active or intense; to moderate; as, slaking his anger.
3.To cause (as lime) to heat and crumble by treatment with water.
intransitive verb:
1.To become slaked; to crumble or disintegrate, as lime.

Well, to be honest, I'm really not sure how I feel about this word. I was trying to say it out loud and even though it does have a handy-dandy pronunciation guide, I just wasn’t feeling good about it.

“Slake, slake, slake.” Hmm, that can’t be right, it doesn’t sound right...

Well I listened to the pronunciation, and sure enough, it was. It rhymes with ‘lake’ (well in my accent anyway)

Have you ever said this word? I don’t think I have ever and as always, I will now endeavour to.
I really like one for the quotes that comes with it on Dictionary.com, but the worst part is, I don’t even like the quote for using this word, so much as I prefer the content.

“My companions never drink pure water and the... beer serves as much to slake their thirst as to fill their stomachs and lubricate conversation.”
-- Philippe Descola, The Spears of Twilight

Using the word slake does seem to class up the whole sentence. It doesn’t even matter what your saying, but throwing slake in there takes it up a notch. Let me try:
“Although my plans tonight only involve a bar and a comedy club, and I’ll probably drink until I can’t stand, the least I can do is try to slake my desire for a party”.

Okay, that sentence was a bit raw, but I’m working on the fly here, as those really are my plan for the night and I have to go get ready soon!

Now if you were picturing a drunk girl falling over and making a fool of herself, you would have been right, until, of course, I threw ‘slake’ in there. Then all of sudden it seems like an innocent quest for a good time. No more, no less, and although tequila shots and bad decisions will most likely be involved, it still seem so coy and kind all because our tricky little word slake.

I think it’s growing on me. I could use this word to my advantage.

In reading the full entry I see the third definition and I have to admit, it confused me more than I thought it would:

To cause (as lime) to heat and crumble by treatment with water.

So lime can ‘slake’ but please don’t get confused. It does not now, nor had it ever had anything to do with slate (as far as I can tell at least). Slate is a rock, and it does tend to crumble, but it is not lime. Lime slakes, but it’s not slate. Confused yet?

In looking at the etymology of our fun (and confusing) little word didn’t help matters.
From the Old English slacian meaning "slacken an effort," from slæc meaning"lax" (see slack).

While it was related to the word slack, it neither sounds like, nor relates to it anymore. Don’t you just love when that happens!
While slake (definition two) does refer to a lessening (as in perhaps lessening the tightness on a rope) it doesn’t now, and personally I just think that’s rude. If you mean one thing you should just keep meaning that one thing!

Of course that’s not how the English language works, and I would never have as much fun with it if it did, but alas, I can but complain to no one, and hope no one listens. I like words to change. (Go Functional Shift!)

So I've lost the plot a little and I may have gone on a rant there, but back to main event: “slake”

Final verdict: Meh? (yeah that a scientific rating, don’t judge it!!)

I mean, it’s a good word and all and I wouldn’t discount it. It’s quite useful for classing up a line, but I can’t help but think it would lose it flashiness if you used it too much. So please, use it sparingly and as always, use it well (and correctly) but don’t count on it.
I don’t think it’s going to hold up its end of the bargain as much you hope it will.

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