What Is Must?Posted: August 27, 2012
I was driving to work yesterday when The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald came up on my iPod. What a happy little tune.
There are two things that make The Edmund Fitzgerald a happy song. The first is that it is the only hit song that contained the name Gitche Gumee.
The other nice thing is that everyone dies. Usually that takes away from my enjoyment of a song. But Edmund Fitzgerald is my go to song to listen to on the way to do something I don’t want to do. When I hear it, I tell myself how glad I am that Gordon Lightfoot isn’t singing about me in that song.
One verse mentions a memorial service for the lost sailors of the Fitzgerald held a “musty old hall in Detroit”. We can infer that this happened in the part of Detroit that wasn’t on fire or bulldozed.
But what is must?
Well, If You Must Know…
We all know what I’m talking about if I say “the house down the street smells musty inside”. But I’ve never known anyone who can identify must.
My career takes me to some of the most foul places in my community. It isn’t unusual for me to leave a place and have an exchange like this:
Did you see all the _______ in the corner? It made taking without gagging almost impossible.
I know, I tried not to look. It wasn’t any better to look up. There was _______ all over the ceiling. I was just praying none fell on me.
Think of something unpleasant and put that word in the blanks. Chances are, I have seen that inside someone’s house. The only thing I haven’t seen is must.
Adding the suffix -y indicates that something is somehow like the root word it attaches to. If you hear that I am in a grumbly mood, you know that I am not happy and likely to grumble. When you tell me that the table is dusty, the message communicated is about the amount of dust on the table.
If something is musty, it implies that something called must exists. We recognize the smell of mustiness, but we cannot identify the must which is its source.
…The Truth Is, I Don’t Really Know
Wikipedia defines must as the first step in wine-making. It is the juice of the freshly crushed grapes and still contains solids like the grape skins and seeds. I’m sure this must smells better than the musty must.
So, exactly what is must?
I have some of the brightest readers on the net.* Today, I bring a request to those readers – would you please define must for me? I don’t care if you actually know what must is. Just define it for me. What do you think it looks like, where does it come from?
*Ha ha, I have readers. Who saw that coming three years ago? No one. Thanks y’all.