Portland Proof
An affordable proofreading service

World of Words
A monthly blog of interesting words, phrases, and idioms.  Like us on Facebook to receive new posts.

Today we'll begin with a test. Look at the picture below, and tell me... is it a xylophone? Or a glockenspiel? Or something else?

This was actually an unfair test, because I deliberately chose a picture of a child's toy, and everyone knows that those things are xylophones -- they say so right on the package!

Or are they?

The truth is, despite the fact that the toy's packaging probably said, "Toy Xylophone," this is not a xylophone at all (though it is a toy).

This is a glockenspiel.

So what is the difference? The difference is in the material used to make the bars. If the bars are made of metal, the instrument is a glockenspiel. If they are made of wood, it is a xylophone.

Consequently, xylophones have a much more mellow sound than glockenspiels (imagine striking a mallet against a piece of wood, and then striking a mallet against a piece of metal!).

And where does the marimba fit into all of this?

A marimba is like a xylophone, except that it has resonating tubes under the wooden bars, which amplify the sound. Marimbas tend to be lower pitched instruments than xylophones.

While all of this might be interesting, none of it helps us remember whether a xylophone is metal or wood.

It would be obvious, if only we had been taught the Greek-origin prefix "xylo," which simply means "pertaining to wood." It would also be obvious if we knew that a coconut is a xylocarp because it has a "woody" shell. Or if we knew that xylotomy is the microscopic study of wood. Or if we knew that xyloid is a synonym for "woody." Or if we remembered from biology class that xylem is one of the types of transport tissue in vascular plants (such as trees). Unfortunately, none of these "xylo" words are well known.

So maybe this will help: A glockenspiel is the only kind of glock you should ever give a child.

Word Games!




"In my latest project, I found the services of Portland Proof to be invaluable in creating a quality work that is both readable and accurate. Laura gets an A+ for her attention to detail and ability to polish a sentence or a paragraph."


"Thank you for all your time and effort in helping me accomplish the writing of my thesis for my degree. Thanks to you, I received an A on my thesis and I will be graduating in July with my Doctorate in Theology."