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November 26, 2009

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Michael

I neglected to write a comment, but the thought came back. Apparently, the expression "hold the mouth open" makes for a pun in Low German: dat mul apen hollen. High-German speakers also used to say Affenmaul. But etymologists are unmoved. Maulaffen was also what people called gaping-mouth-styled holders for Kienspäne (pinewood spills commonly used for lighting). Perhaps this is how the tower got its name.

Interestingly, Kienspan is a word that seems to be more familiar in modern times than its English equivalent. Certainly, every Russian child would know what a "luchina" is, but would American city kids know what to call a rushlight? I don't think I've ever heard that word before myself.

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