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Will Styler

Associate Teaching Professor of Linguistics at UC San Diego

Director of UCSD's Computational Social Science Program

Tacticool Crenellations

This was originally posted on my blog, Notes from a Linguistic Mystic in 2013. See all posts

Today, I stumbled across a very old word with a very modern, very specific use: Crenellation.

For those of you lacking in 12th Century Military Architecture terminology, a crenel is one of the indentations in a battlement wall, the gaps in the alternating gaps and blocks at the rim of a battlement’s wall or roof, as in the diagram below:


Image Credit

This word was first attested (according to the OED) in the 1300s, so where did I find this word in use in the modern world?

Well, I’ve been looking for a quality flashlight for an upcoming roadtrip, and I discovered that the majority of quality lights now feature “crenellation”, which makes no sense right up until you see the flashlight being advertised:


These crenellations (sometimes called a crenellated striking bezel) are designed to turn your flashlight into a makeshift self-defense weapon1, and apparently the term has caught on in the flashlight community. At the time of writing, when one Google Image searches “crenellated”, around 1/4 of the pictures are of flashlights or flashlight parts (the rest, of course, being castles).

Looking at these lights brings to mind one other delightful (and rather applicable) blend that I’ve not mentioned before: Tacticool.

Tacticool is a blend of “tactical” and “cool”, which is generally used to mock something which is both far more militaristic than the situation requires and far more concerned with looks than practicality.

Tacticool Operator Image Credit

This is most often used mockingly, to refer to a person (think “fatigue-wearing, H2-driving, crenellated-flashlight-carrying pizza delivery boy”) or to a overly-accessorized weapon or piece of equipment (a Google Image Search explains better than I ever could), but the term is quite versatile.

All linguistics aside, I did find a flashlight, and yes, it does have tacticool crenellations. But more importantly, I can now use something which is best described using a word from the 12th century alongside a word which seems to have caught on in July 2008.

Now, my flashlight can brighten my life in two ways!