Welcome to another bout of Word Nerd. Today we’re going to take on a somewhat tricky one; I actually saw this in print in a restaurant menu, which is what inspired the post; the menu talked about a particular item that it promised would “please your palette.” And so here we are. These words routinely get mixed up more often than not. And we’ll throw in a fourth word that’s similar in sound but has nothing to do with any of the others except that occasionally somebody will substitute one of them for it.
Pallet: a flat wooden platform upon which items are stacked for shipping and storage, or a bed consisting of a flat wooden platform with a straw-stuffed mattress.
Palette: an oval-shaped board with a hole for the thumb, upon which artists mix their paints, or the range of colors chosen for a particular project.
Palate: The roof of the mouth; metaphorically, the sense of taste.
And a bonus word:
Pallid: weak, colorless, lacking in energy or vitality, faded, bland, sickly.
Pallet comes from the Middle English paillet, from Anglo-Norman, bundle of straw, from paille, straw, from Late Latin palea, meaning straw. The wooden pallets used at the local warehouse look very much like an old wooden pallet bed.
Palate is from the Latin palatum, which means “the roof of the mouth.”
Pallid is from the Latin pallidus, from pallere, meaning “to be pale.”
If you say you like a designer’s color palate, you are saying you like the way the roof of his mouth looks.
If you say the items are stacked on a palette, the items are blobs of paint.
If you say somebody looked a little pallet, you’re saying they look like a wooden slab.