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 Definition: Glue

Pronunciation: Stik-um 


Stickum arose in America in around 1905 as an alternative word to ‘glue’. Indeed, the word ‘glue’ has long roots, dating back to Proto-Indo-European times as ‘gleit’. The word ‘stick’, in the ‘glue’ sense, originally meant to ‘pierce’ or ‘puncture’ something – think of the way one might ‘stick’ a poster to a wall using a tack and you;ll be able to see how it evolved.

Why This Word?

 Stickum is, in my opinion, a great example of American English in action. Think of the marketing use of the suffix ‘begone’ today. Developing a medication that gets rid of warts? Let’s call it ‘Wart-begone’. Have you come up with a butter substitute that’s better than you believed it would be? Let’s call it ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’. This idea was not invented by marketers. It is an organic process in American English. And that’s how, in the early 20th century, the word stickum evolved as an alternative for the word ‘glue’.

 How to use the word stickum in a sentence? 

While it is absolutely possible to use stickum and be understood, you may run into problems. Stickum is now a brand name for a sticky substance used to improve grip in some sports. Thus, you have to use it carefully lest you be seen to be engaging in product endorsement.

Or better yet – maybe just use ‘glue’. Given its long roots, it has proven itself able to stick around…


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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