Word of the Day: dust, again.
Lily Munster walks about the tumbledown parlor, shaking a mop-like thing over the pump organ, the raven-clock, the sofa, and the electric chair. Smoke scatters everywhere. “Excuse me,” she says to the astonished visitor, “I was just dusting the furniture.”
The joke’s on us English speakers. How odd it is, that we turn nouns into verbs, just like that, to mean that we put that noun onto something else. We paint things by putting paint on them. We soil things by smudging them with soil. We nail things by driving nails into them. We water flowers. And yes, Lily, we dust crops!
What’s odder still is that we have a group of verbs, many of them having to do with preparing plants or animals for our tables, which mean that we take the noun away from something. Olives that are pitted have no pits. Cherries that are stoned, if they are not on college campuses, have no stones. You shell peas by taking them out of their shells. The kid on roller skates hits a bump in the sidewalk and skins his knees. It means that his knees had skin on them, and don’t anymore. “Gimme that wrench or I’ll brain ya!” says Moe to Curly. It is not clear in Curly’s case whether such an operation could be performed, but we know what Moe means.