Broach - brooch

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Beware the two homophones broach and brooch, pronounced as the first looks: IPA: /brəʊtʃ/. (There is also a possible typing mistake in 'broch', not pronounced the same way, which may itself be mistaken for 'brochan'.)

  • There are two verbs 'to broach', of which the first is far more common in academic circles:
    • In current usage, 'to broach' a subject is to introduce the topic, in a debate, conversation, academic text etc.
      • You may sometimes see in older texts the expression 'to broach a cask, or barrel'; this means 'to tap the container', that is, to insert a spout, spigot or other device from which the contents may be poured. In this sense, the word is cognate with broker or retailer, such as a 'pawnbroker' - now mostly a middleman in Stock Exchange transactions ('stockbroker', with various sub-categories), but originally a retailer of beer or wine, a publican or tapster.
      • The original sense was 'to stab' or 'thrust through', later more peacefully 'to pierce', sometimes 'to put on a spit' (for roasting, etc).
    • Sailing boats (and others) dread broaching to, which is very dangerous in high winds and waves. A vessel that 'broaches to' turns so that her length is at right angles to wind or waves, and which then becomes at much greater risk of capsizing, or being rolled over. In storms this can happen unintentionally, often with fatal results, particularly in square-rigged ships.
  • The noun 'a brooch' is the name given to a piece of jewellery designed to be pinned to a garment. Modern brooches are for ornament, but in older times they were often functional - fastening, for example, a cloak securely to the wearer.
There is also a very rare verb 'to brooch', meaning 'to adorn as with a brooch'.
  • Broch is an archaeological/tourist term. The word labels a type of structure found only in Scotland and the Scottish islands: a type of round tower built with two concentric drystone walls with chambers or a stair between them, rising to considerable heights (up to 44 feet). They were built around the turn of the first millennium (ca. 100 BCE - 100 CE). They are the subject of much archaeological discussion and dispute.
Etymological note: although 'broch' is pronounced with a characteristic Scots /χ/ ('voiceless uvular fricative'), IPA: /brɒχ/ and looks Gaelic, it is in fact derived from the North Germanic borg (Old Norse and Danish) 'castle', 'stronghold', cognate with burh in Old English, which led to Present-day English 'borough'.
    • Brochan (pronounced like 'broch' with an added '-an' (IPA: /ˈbrɒχ ən/ on the other hand is a Gaelic term meaning 'thin porridge', or 'gruel'.