30-Second Word Whoop: “Dovetail”

These doves were just done interlocking when I snapped this instagram love-gram. (Photo by Terry Byrne)

A half-blind dovetail joint

A half-blind dovetail joint. A dovetail joint is comprised of a tenon and mortise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a birder, I admire hordes of dove tails.

I know by heart their rounded, tapering lines, like fancy Chinese fans; I know by sound their loopy wing whistle, which may or may not involve tail feathers. It signals that a mourning dove somewhere is hauling ass, so to speak.

Today, Dictionary.com plucked “dovetail” from the blue as its word of the day, defining it as the stock verb: “to join or fit together compactly or harmoniously.”

Often used in building trades to describe a joint with interlocking pieces shaped roughly like a dove’s tail, the compound noun form of dovetail fastens things together “logically,” according to Webster’s New World.

Logically speaking, then, why is “piggyback” a synonym for dovetail? In a work meeting, for instance, I might dovetail off your point. Things get disjointed if, say, in depositions, Witness A’s story doesn’t dovetail with Witness B’s story.

(Hey, do piggies really ride each other? I can think of loads of other animals who ride or get ridden in a superior fashion — how did piggies get chosen? Thought to be continued with an upcoming Word Whoop on “piggyback.”)

The lip of a beavertail trailer is sometimes called a dovetail.

Dovetail juxtaposes neatly with “beavertail” — for those occasions when you’re fixing not to haul ass but to haul something.A beavertail trailer has a slight decline at the end of the deck, to make loading and unloading easier. The slanted part is also called a dovetail, I’m guessing, for its interlocking joints that allow it some flux. Not to be confused with “fishtail,” which suggests too much flux.

A dovetail jig. The jig is up.

Beautiful dovetail joints can be seen on the drawer that is piggybacking another.

Turns out “dovetail” is a pretty handy term. There are dovetail jigs (used to cut dovetail shapes, for drawers, for instance) and dovetail saws for crafting things of wood — anyone have cause for a wooden craft or an ark at this juncture?

Here’s a description from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks’ website trumpeting its dovetail saw:

“Since dovetailing is a ripping operation, where the kerf is running with the grain, our Dovetail Saw has its teeth filed to a rip profile, unlike other dovetail saws on the market today.”

Kinda wrenches the dove from its peaceful image. In truth, doves are voracious eaters, more like pigs, and will let nothing get between them and their millet.

Whether you’re trying to connect 4-by-4’s, or connecting doves, pigs, beavers, even turtle doves when animals go marching two by two, here’s hoping it all dovetails nicely for you.

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

3 responses to “30-Second Word Whoop: “Dovetail””

  1. rave1914 says :

    …and of course there is “shavetail” one of which i once was…

    • Terry Byrne says :

      You were a mule?! 🙂 Keeps with the animal theme, anyway. Or do you mean a 2nd Lt.? I thought that was a disparaging term — why use it on yourself? Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  1. 30-Second Word Whoop: “Piggyback” | Word Whoops - November 25, 2012

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