sparge was our Word of the Day on 08/08/2009. Hear the podcast!
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Where Did sparge Come From?
Etymologists think that "sparge" likely came to English by way of the Middle French word espargier, itself from Latin spargere, meaning "to scatter." ("Spargere" is also the source of "disperse," "intersperse," and "sparse," among others.) Although "sparge" has been a synonym for "sprinkle" since the late 16th century, you're now most likely to come across this word in one of two contexts. The first is a process called "air sparging," in which air is injected into groundwater to help remediate contamination. The second is the process of beer making, during which mash is sparged - that is, sprayed with hot water to extract the wort. In The New World Guide to Beer, author Michael Jackson describes the process by which one particular beer is made, saying that "it is brewed only from first running, without sparging...."
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