Hard Words Beginning with "He" III
Bill Long 1/9/08
Some Unfamiliar/Rare Terms
So much of the world begins to open to you if you just take some time to listen to it. Today I will continue on several words from the Unabridged beginning with "he." I will also cross-reference the OED. Let's begin with a "form" term. I wish there was an online list of many of these words; I guess I will gradually have to put my own together.
1. Heliciform means "spirally wound" or "having the form of the snail's shape." It is, literally, in the form of a helix (Greek word is helix). The number of words beginning with "heli" in English is larger than you might imagine, and not all of them relate to spirals. For example, the word heliac means "pertaining to the sun" and is derived from the Greek heliakos from helios, the sun. It is a root worth exploring in its own essay.
2. Hedebo is derived from the Danish word for "heath" (Heden) and refers to a form of cut and drawn work on white linen, which flourished chiefly in the 18th-19th centuries among Danish peasants. Here is a picture of this attractive material/design. I learned alos that in the "geometric period" of hedebo production its designs were similar to those found on Italian reticella. Derived from the Latin "rete" (net), reticella is a lace-like fabric produced especially in Venice in the 15th-17th centuries. Phew. Good start.
3. Something helobious lives (bios) in a marsh (helos is the Greek word for marsh. A synonym is "palustrine" (palus is the Latin word for marsh). A plant requiring marshy habitat can also be called palustrian or palustral. In addition, the word paludal means "of or relating to a marsh or fen." The reason that both palud- and palus- refer to marsh-like plants/animals is that the nominative case of the Latin is palus and the genitive is paludis-- and many English words are formed off the genitive case. Helodes is a word meaning "marshy" and usually refers to fevers produced by contact with marshes. But, not to get too far afield, the Greek word helos (the first letter is an "eta" rather than a "epsilon," which begins the word for swamp) means "nail," and so a heloderm is a large and repulsive-looking venomous lizard of the genus Heloderma, which has its skin studded with warts that look like nail heads. Here is a pair of Heloderma horridum for your viewing pleasure.
4. The word hematocryal also brings us into two more important Greek roots. Most know that hema/hemato is derived from the Greek word for "blood," and so many words beginning with "hemato" suggest some kind of "redness." An example is hematochrome, a red coloring matter developed in some Protozoa at a certain stage of existence. Something that is hematobious is a parasite living in the blood. Since the Greek word for cold or frost is kruos, with the "upsilon" becoming a "y" in English, hematocryal suggests something that is cold-blooded. The OED tells us that something hematocryal belongs to the Hematocrya or cold-blooded Vertebrata. The opposite is hematotherma.
5. Hediondilla is the Spanish word for "little stinker," and is used to describe the creosote bush, which abounds in desert locations of the SW United States. Here is a little article on the creosote bush.
6-10. There are lots of confusing words in the "he's," so let's dive in. Hemachate is derived from the words "blood" and "agate" (achates) and refers to a light-colored agaite like bloodstone with red jasper spots. Heiau is the Hawaiian word for temple and came into English in 1825 in the following sentence: "Tamehameha..finished the heiau [pro. HAY au], dedicated it to his god of war." This word represented the pre-Christian temples used in traditional HI religion. Helleri is the specific epithet of the Xiphophorus helleri, the swordtail. Picture is here. The "helleri" part of the name was named after a 20th century tropical fish collector. But you also find pictures on the web of an Ilex helleri (a kind of holly) and an Opuntia helleri (a type of cactus). We get in trouble with heemraad, because the Unabridged spells it this way but the OED renders it Heemrad. It was a local petty court assisting the "landdrost" (a South African magistrate, under Dutch authority) in South Africa and formerly in the Netherlands. It could also refer to a member of this council. Finally, heimin refers to the common people, including peasants, craftsmen and traders in Japanese society of the feudal period. The word has been in English for well over 100 years, even though I hadn't been familiar with it until recently.
The Unabridged tells us that helshoes is a term from Norse mythology meaning the shoes placed on the dead before burial to aid them in the rough road to Hel. This website provides a lot of information on the world of Viking mythology. In listing the Nine World of this mythology, the site speaks about Asgard as the home of the Aesir and Asynjur. The Unabridged only has a listing for Aesir, which it leaves uncapitalized and defines as the chief gods of pagan Scandinavia. The "misty cold realms" is known as Niflhelm and is ruled by the Goddess Hel/Hela. All pass through her realm before going to their respective places. You need to wear "Helshoes" to cross the brambles and cold.
Well, as you see, a word might open a world, but it only scrapes the surface of a throbbing and complex mythology that underlies it. I suppose I will confess that we never can know all the words (since each culture would have its own creation myth and vocabulary), but we can be brought into a deeper understanding of these worlds by tyring to learn its words. Thanks for joining me on this task.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long