If you’ve never had the pleasure of sharing a four hour car trip with an owl suffering from a basher of a head-cold, consider yourself an extraordinarily lucky person.
It seems that whilst exploring the Palladian Circle in Congress Park, I caught a nasty cold. It also seems that, whilst exploring a vast and confusing maze of tunnels beneath the hills of this same Congress Park, Bubo caught my cold. I blame the stale air in the tunnels. And Bubo’s refusal to cease her habitual nips from my hip flask of whiskey. Sharing does tend to extend to germs, my dears.
These tunnels beneath the hills might, at one time, have led to the basements of the various Victorian mansions surrounding the park. I can only imagine what nefarious and prohibition-based escapades occurred below the seemingly proper streets of Saratoga Springs.
This delightful creation is part of the Presbyterian Church now:
The tunnels spider-webbed in all directions, and I was so thoroughly turned around when we extricated ourselves that I nearly toppled into one of the springs the town is so well-known for. I might have taken “taking the waters” a bit too far at that point. You might say that this underground system was rather crinkum-krankum.
Crinkum-krankum (some might spell it crinkum-crankum and we are all correct) is an archaic noun which means something full of twists and turns; a thing fancifully or excessively intricate and elaborate. It was often used to describe something that was much ornamented and could refer to artwork, carved chests, and even music. Herman Melville even had one of his mariners use it in reference to whales that looked rather different than the whales he was used to: “I tell ye, men, them’s crinkum-crankum whales.”
According to the esteemed Michael Quinion on his delightful website World Wide Words: The word has a confused origin. It’s related to the older crinkle-crankle and cringle-crangle, which are both based on crankle, meaning a bend, twist or curve. In turn this derives from crank, something winding or crooked or a cranny or inaccessible hole or crevice, a sense that had been borrowed from that of a handle.
In the interest of full etymological disclosure, crinkum-krankum was also used as terribly vulgar slang term for what Francis Grose explained as “a woman’s commodity: the private parts of a modest woman, and the public parts of a prostitute.”
Naturally, I will have none of that in this house, though I am quite aware that Mordecai and Silas enjoy extreme bawdiness and I admit to blushing often when those two are in their cups and having open discussions. I am the more modest of the relations, I am quite aware. Crinkum-krankum, as far as I’m concerned, is the perfect word to dub a winding and confusing garden wall or an overly elaborate vase.
Speaking of vases, Bubo was particularly fond of this urn, also on display in Congress Park. A pair of painted iron urns, titled Night and Day, were created by Danish neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and were placed in the park in 1830. This photo shows the night side of the urns. Can you guess why Bubo particularly likes these?