Death is for the birds

Last week, we ran a story in the paper about a cemetery that had built a brick wall modeled after the one at Wrigley Field to hold the cremated remains of Cubs fans -- for a price of course. (My headline? "Die-hard fans of Cubs can now rest easy.") This led to a discussion of what the technical term for such a wall was. One of my coworkers came up with columbarium

The American Heritage Dictionary gives these definitions for columabrium:

  • 1a. A vault with niches for urns containing ashes of the dead.
  • 1b. One of the niches in such a vault.
  • 2a. A dovecote. (Home for birds.)
  • 2b. A pigeonhole in a dovecote.

So what do pigeons and ashes have to do with each other? The word columabrium is Latin, and it "is derived from the Latin columba (f0r "dove" or "pigeon"), and it originally referred to a pigeon house or dovecote. It later acquired its more common meaning by association," according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.