Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Turn on the Tap

It's such a simple everyday object that for the most part it goes unnoticed - even when we are turning it on in the morning when making a cup of tea or coffee. And it is a most old and venerable kind of object. Indeed, from ancient times, people knew how to regulate water and other liquids with a simple valve. The Romans knew their fluid mechanics and were a dab hand at all manner of taps. We use "tap" in many ways in conversation - we might tap a friend for cash or information. and if anyone was a suspect in major police investigation their phone might be "tapped". This always refers to a kind of draining off of something. But the word tap does not apply in all countries. It could be a faucet, spigot or valve depending on whether outdoor or indoor, functional or decorative. The one common usage for the word "tap" is where beer is dispensed! And if you can get along to a beer festival this summer, you may find my favourite dispenser - one using gravity feed, which draws the beer using a tap that is hammered into the cask near the base. Crude but effective. Very often, things don't have to be complicated to be perfectly serviceable.