It’s summer, and the iron is rotting again

What have garage sales wrought?

Wrought iron decoration, www.sxc.hu/photo/1003375

Actually, I shouldn’t blame garage sales. Garage sale ads simply offer a window into people’s minds.

Apparently those minds hold visions of rotting iron furniture sitting around on patios, as the ad above suggests.

The correct term is wrought iron, meaning iron that has been shaped or embellished, usually by being beaten with a hammer. True wrought iron is extremely hard to find today, as U.S. plants stopped making it in the 1960s, according to the National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association. The term wrought iron now generally refers to a particular look.

Even the idea of rot iron has problems. Technically, iron oxidizes, or rusts. More commonly, we think of wood rotting. Both are forms of deterioration, though, so it isn’t wrong to refer to rotting iron if that iron is really rotting.

But rotting iron is not wrought iron.

Wrought has another meaning besides the one associated with embellished metal. It can also be used as a verb meaning created, as in the way I used it in the first sentence of this post.

Perhaps the most famous use of the word in that way is “What hath God wrought?” That was the first message that Samuel Morse transmitted over the telegraph in 1844.

No need for divine questioning of garage sale ads. Rather, it looks as if some people have been sitting in the sun too long, enjoying their wrought iron furniture and letting their minds wither with dry rot.

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