Een ‘blowpoke’: wat is dat ook al weer?
Q – Dear Word Detective: My wife and I heard the word “blowpoke” used several times on a recent “Dateline” program on TV. We can’t find a definition so far, including in your extensive archives. Apparently, it is a tool used with a fireplace. Have you heard this word before? Is it a southern colloquialism (the people on the TV show were from the south)? What is the origin? –
A – A “blowpoke” is indeed a fireplace tool, a long (three to four feet) metal tube with a mouthpiece (seriously) on one end and a point like that of a harpoon on the other. It’s basically a combination of a fireplace poker and a Breathalyzer test. To properly employ a “blowpoke,” you stick the pointy end into the burning embers in the fireplace and blow through the mouthpiece vigorously, exciting the embers into flame. The pointy end is then manipulated to push bits of the fire around.
To improperly employ a “blowpoke,” you use the nasty gizmo to kill your wife, which brings us to the wonderful world of broadcast “journalism” and that carnival of serial killers, wife-murderers and really, really bad babysitters known as Dateline NBC. In 2003, a North Carolina man named Michael Peterson was convicted of beating his wife Kathleen Peterson to death in December, 2001 in order to collect $1.4 million in insurance, making the case primo media fodder. The prosecution asserted that Peterson used a blowpoke as a weapon, although whether the blowpoke was ever actually found remains, oddly, an open question. (It was a very strange trial. I hope I’m never on trial in North Carolina.)