06 August 2008

Dances with Etymons

Am I supercilious? Well, supercilium is Latin for eyebrow. Nowabouts, the word supercilious denotes a contemptuous nature, a character that holds others and the world in disdain. I guess people like that raise their eyebrows a lot. I am pretty well endowed in the eyebrow world, as a glance to the left of this page will assure you. In fact, if my rare forays onto the stage have been successful, then this is owed to the ability of my eyebrows to convey expression at great distance. Yeah, they will cut you at 50 paces.

Have you heard of dipsas?

'...the direst of all the reptiles bred in the sand is the dipsas or thirst-snake; it is of no great size, and resembles the viper; its bite is sharp, and the venom acts at once, inducing agonies to which there is no relief. The flesh is burnt up and mortified, the victims feel as if on fire, and yell like men at the stake. But the most overpowering of their torments is that indicated by the creature's name. They have an intolerable thirst; and the remarkable thing is, the more they drink, the more they want to drink, the appetite growing with what it feeds on. You will never quench their thirst, though you give them all the water in Nile or Danube; water will be fuel, as much as if you tried to put out a fire with oil.' Lucian

What a perfect description of desire. I like the image of the mind rent by dipsomania, except this word solely refers to the pathology of alcoholics. There is no reason not to expand the territory of a word. Just get figurative.

Scrofulous is an underused term. What can you do with it? Well, scrofula is a chronic disease of the lymph glands, so it is pretty ugly. Scrofulous therefore makes a nasty adjective. Try: Devotees of taste eschew the scrofula of polyester when selecting their shirtings. Works well because the word derives from the Greek for 'like a pig's back.' Blackadder would gladly compliment Baldrick with the epithet, "scrofulous goat."



People often say, "You learn something every day." I trust we have achieved that here. I actually learnt more than one thing - I have to be careful not to overdo it in case I pull a hamstring.

'In the pursuit of knowledge, a man learns something every day.
In the pursuit of Tao, a man unlearns something every day.'
Tao Te Ching

'Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)'
Walt Whitman

The way is never hidden from one who attempts to unlearn their ignorance. With the imperturbable soul-assurance of Walt, I am free to enjoy the dance of etymons.

It is Sunday morning. It is not just day - it is being omnipresent joyful. The summit of a single green leaf...

May the light
Of one thousand
Buddhas shine.

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