Word Confusion: Baton versus Batten

Posted November 14, 2019 by kddidit in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I was exploring in Pinterest and read a fascinating article on the faux finishing a woman had done on her mobile home. It was at the end that I learned that “after the addition, the home will be wrapped in board and baton to continue…”

I suspect it would be cheaper (and less tacky) to lay out a board-and-batten pattern using lumber, but if she really wants to use batons…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Baton Batten
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: batten; Lexico.com: baton, batten; Batten Disease Support and Research Association: batten; Merriam-Webster: batten; The Free Dictionary: batten

A pile of french fries

French Fries by skeeze is under the Pixabay License, via Pixabay.

Who knew french fries were batons?

An old shed in the backyard

White Board and Batten Shed by William Smock is in the public domain courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Picryl.com.

This shed displays one example of how battens can be used to create a pattern.

Part of Grammar:

Plural: batons

Noun 1, 2; Verb 1, intransitive 3 & transitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: battens
Past tense or past participle: battened
Gerund or present participle: battening

A thin stick used by a conductor to direct an orchestra or choir

  • A short stick or tube passed from runner to runner in a relay race
  • A long stick carried and twirled by a drum major
  • A police officer’s club
  • A staff symbolizing office or authority, especially one carried by a field marshal
  • A rectangular piece of a vegetable or other food
  • [Heraldry] A narrow bend truncated at each end
  • A short bar replacing some figures on the dial of a clock or watch
  • [batons] One of the suits in some tarot packs, corresponding to wands in others
A long, flat strip of squared wood or metal used for various building purposes, as to cover joints between boards, reinforce certain doors, supply a foundation for lathing, hold something in place, or as a fastening against a wall 1

  • [Nautical] A strip of wood or metal for securing the edges of a tarpaulin that covers a ship’s hatch
  • [Nautical] A strip of wood or plastic used to stiffen and extend the leech of a sail
  • A transverse iron or steel strip supporting the flooring strips of a metal fire escape

[British] A piece of lumber used especially for flooring

[Shipbuilding] A flexible strip of wood used for fairing the lines of a hull on the floor of a mold loft

[Theater; a.k.a., pipe batten] A length of metal pipe hung from the gridiron, for suspending scenery or equipment, as drops, flats, or lighting units

[Theater] A narrow strip of lumber for constructing, reinforcing, or joining flats

[Theater] A similar strip attached to a drop to keep it flat or taut

[Weaving; in a loom] The heavy swinging bar on a loom that holds the reed and is pulled forward to pack down the weft 2

[Weaving] A flat stick used in weaving by hand to separate the upper and lower threads of the warp and to tighten the weft

[Medical] A family of rare diseases caused by autosomal recessive genetic mutations in the body

Verb, intransitive:
To thrive by feeding

  • Grow fat

To feed gluttonously or greedily

  • To glut oneself

[Usually used with on] To thrive, prosper, or live in luxury, especially at the expense of others 3

To prepare for possible trouble

Verb, transitive:
Strengthen, furnish, or fasten (something) with battens

[Nautical; usually followed by down] To cover (a hatch) so as to make watertight

[Machinery] To secure (work) to a table or bed for a machining operation

[Building Trades] to join or assemble (a steel column or the like) with batten plates

[Theater] To suspend (scenery, stage lights, etc.) from a batten

[Theater] To fasten a batten to (a flat or drop)

He waved a hand in the air as if he were holding a baton and conducting an orchestra.

They were leading when their third runner dropped the baton before passing it to the anchor.

He set scoring records at Niagara and twirled the baton at Buffalo Bills games.

On a sunny July 4 morning in Ripley — a town of 3400 souls — he revelled in the festivities as batons twirled and bands marched.

They were stopped by scores of riot policemen armed with automatic weapons, batons, and water cannons.

Victory brought Wellington a field marshal’s baton, sensitively designed by the Prince Regent himself.

Several recipes, including one for grilled vegetables with batons of grilled tofu, make for pleasing vegetarian fare.

By the 17th century a baton sinister was also used to indicate illegitimacy.

It’s accented by large luminous white hands, thin white baton markers, and Arabic numerals at 6 and 12 o’clock.

The suits are cups, coins, swords, and batons, and each suit contains seven different cards: ace, 3, 4, 5, jack, horse, and king.

The technique allows us to pass the baton to the next generation.

It was left to the capital’s campuses to take up the baton.

The horizontal timber battens of the south wall overlay profiled metal sheets, changing the scale of the wall and introducing shadow animation.

I wondered if Bo had tightened the batten strings to reduce washout.

With the sail tensioned, the battens didn’t catch on the cross tubes as you pushed them in.

“Owing to the fact that the ends of battens for piano sounding boards are cut down so thin, this cutting operation is not performed until after the battens have been glued in place” (Wood-worker).

“Battens must be one and one-half inches by three-eighths inch (1 1/2″ x 3/8″) not more than three feet (3′) apart, riveted to the slats by five-sixteenth inch (5/16″) rivets and so spaced as to secure rigidity [for a fire escape]” (Chapter 15).

“Several long, clear grained battens of first grade lumber should be made up with varying degrees of flexibility before lofting begins” (Boating).

“Pipe battens provide a rigid support for the softer metal used in the fabrication of curtain tracks; and are recommended for all suspended track systems, especially curved track systems” (Thern).

Theatrical carpenters use any of three types of battens as anchors, for carrying loads, and for stiffening: pipe, truss, and electric (Theatrical).

To make battens stiffer, place them on edge instead of flat, and hinge them to flat frames (Stage).

“In a loom, the combination of a batten member, a reed movably mounted thereon, and connecting mechanism between said reed and batten member and operated relatively to the batten member by said batten member, during the latter’s movement, for retarding the movement of said reed while said batten member is moving and while the shuttle is passing laterally forward of said reed…” (US Patent Office).

A Navajo traditional batten tool is used for starting and finishing a rug, sashbelt, Puebloan/Hopi style weaving, and sandpainting.

A batten is used to push the weft yarn into place.

Batten disease, or Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL), disrupts the cells’ ability to dispose of wastes.

Verb, intransitive:
She battens like a leech on the lives of famous people.

Pawnbrokers and loan sharks like to batten on the needy.

They were nothing but robber barons who battened on the poor.

There are too many multinational monopolies who batten on the working classes.

People battened down in preparation for winter.

The boxes were securely battened.

Verb, transitive:
Stephen was battening down the shutters.

Batten down the hatches!

Noun: battener
Phrasal Verb
batten down
batten on
History of the Word:
Early 16th century, denoting a staff or cudgel, it is from the French bâton, earlier baston, from the late Latin bastum meaning stick.
  1. Late 15th century from the Old French batant, a present participle (used as a noun) of batre meaning to beat, from the Latin battuere.
  2. 1825–35, as an alteration of the French battant.
  3. Late 16th century, in the sense improve in condition, grow fat, is from the Old Norse batna meaning get better.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Resources for Baton versus Batten

Chapter 15 Fire Protection. 1 RCNY §15-10. NYC.gov. n.d. Web. 11 November 2019. <http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/rules/1_RCNY_15-10.pdf>.

Duffett, John L. “Understand Boat Plans”. Boating. Jan–June 1959. <https://bit.ly/33DEve2>.

“On the Way Through the Factory.” The Wood-worker, Volume 40. March 1921. Web. 11 November 2019. <https://bit.ly/2NCdClb>. p 42.

Scenery. Stage Carpentry. IATSE Local 470 Union Stagehands. n.d. Web. 11 November 2019. <http://www.ia470.com/primer/scenery.htm>.

Theatrical Carpentry Handbook. IATSE 4 Brooklyn and Queens. 2011. Web. 11 November 2019. Rev 2. <http://www.iatselocal4.org/Docs/Study_Guides/Carpentry_Handbook_Rev2.pdf>.

Thern Stage Equipment. n.d. Web. 11 November 2019. <https://www.thernstage.com/products/rigging-accessories/pipe-battens/>.

United States Patent Office. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Volume 162. <https://bit.ly/33F3JZt>. p 562.

Pinterest Photo Credits:

Twirling Baton by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is under the Pixabay License, via Pixabay. Napoleonic Marshal Baton by Ipankonin is under the CC SA-BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons. Two Middlesbrough Police Truncheons is courtesy of the Dorman Museum, MIDDM:T2012.25 MIDDM:T2012.10, via Safe and Sound.com. Military Baton, Israel, by Etan J. Tal is under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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