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aback

A back, not a back.

Aback, not a back.

I don’t enjoy admitting to the great deficiencies in my vocabulary, but if I am to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I must acknowledge that I was taken aback to learn that aback has another meaning in addition to “by surprise” as in “taken aback”.

When referencing a sail, Aback also means to be unintentionally in a position to catch the wind on what would normally be the side sheltered from the wind. I’m still puzzled over how a sail can have an intention, but never mind that.

It serves me right for not being a sailor. My vocabulary has clearly suffered as a result, as has my understanding of the philosophy of intentions, sails, and the intentions of sails.

One word of warning: When using the word aback, be careful not to let a space slip in there, whether accidentally or as a result of someone’s nefarious actions. Otherwise, depending on the usage, when you say you were taken aback, someone might think that you have stolen a body part, namely a back. There are laws against that, particularly if the back was defenseless at the time and/or it was attached to the rest of a body. As far as I know, in most jurisdictions the law is silent on backs being armed.

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