Miscellaneous Words II
Bill Long 3/2/08
Finishing in Good "Form"/Then Some Latin Phrases
I am fascinated with words ending in "form" or "aceous," when the latter refers to a shape, and I will begin this essay with a list of several of these: (1) spongiform; (2) crescentiform; (3) perciform; (4) colubriform; (5) bubaline; (6) pultaceous; (7) lumbriciform or vermiform; (8) arudinaceous; (9) ascidiform or arytenoid; (11) pluviniform/pulvinate; (12) botryoidal; and (13) pumiciform. Several of these can be divined just by imagining the shorter English word that stands behind it; however some are derived directly from the Latin or Greek, and we thereby need "help" on them. By the way, if you would like my comments on about 15 other "form"-words, click here.
Contemplating the "Forms"--with exception of Botryoid
Let's not go in order. I love the word botryoidal or botryoid because it is so difficult to pronounce. Behind it lies a simple concept and word in Greek. It is botrus, a cluster of bunch of grapes; it can also mean a curl or lock. But something botryoidal has the form of a bunch of grapes. Well, what else has the shape of bunch of grapes but a bunch of grapes? A cut in the Century shows the botryoidal structure of chalcedony. One might also say that many underwater seashells are botryoidal. But they may also be spongiform. Spongiform refers to something "sponge-like" or soft, elastic and porous, like an ordinary bath-sponge. In modern brain research a spongiform encephalopathy is a change in the brain tissue, which assumes a sponge-like appearance due to the degeration and loss of neurons.
Worms are not exactly sponges but we have two words to describe their shape: vermiform and lumbriciform. A lumbricus, in classical Latin, is an intestinal worm or earthworm. Vermis is a Latin word for worm, also. The word vermiform and its near-neighbor vermicular, to be shaped like a worm, are popular words in architectural settings. Something vermicular is tortuous or sinuous, also writhing or wriggling. But Edgar Allen Poe could use the word in the following way: "In the jar containing the leeches had been introduced, by accident, one of the venomous vermicular sangsues which are now and then found in the neighbouring ponds." By the way, a sangsue is a kind of leech. One may, also, have vermicular or vermiculated work in stone--where there are winding frets or knots in mosaic pavements, resembling the tracks of worms. Enough on this slithery subject.
I am ready for a few easy ones. Something crescentiform is, obviously, something shaped like the moon when it is in its crescent phase. Something perciform has the shape of a perch fish; it can also be called percoid. We can go along this line a little further when we say that colubriform simply means "shaped like a snake." Since one family of snakes is known as the Colubridae, we see how colubriform developed.
Leaving the Forms for a Moment
I love the sound of bubaline. The Latin word bubalinus means "pertaining to the bubalus" or buffalo. Therefore, something bubaline resembles a buffalo; bovine has a similar meaning with respect to cows. Something pultaceous is soft or semi-fluid; pulpy. It derives from the Latin puls/pult. If something is 'pulpy' it is "macerated; partly digested." The word is used in contrast to something hard or tough. From 1823: "Hard and tough animal food cannot, by mastication, be reduced to the loose, pultacious form which hard bread assumes." Or, from 1835-36, "In infancy the brain is extremely soft, almost pultaceous" (note the two different spellings within 13 years; spelling had still not, to a large extent, been standardized in the early-mid 19th century).
Something arenaceous, as we have seen elsewhere, simply means "sandy." But what does arundinaceous mean? If you knew that the Latin word for "reed" is arundo, you would know immediately that it means "reed-like."
Back to a Few Forms
So many things in nature and human creation are pillow-like or pillow-form. For example? Pillows. Cushions. But lots of puffy-like things can look like pillows. These are pulviniform or pulvinate. A pulvinus is a cushion; therefore something pulviniform is bulging, convex or resembling a cushion in shape. A pulvillus is a little pillow; therefore something pulvilliform is also pillow-shaped. But the word pulvinus can also suggest a pad, a sort of soft covering on a tissue, and thus the word pulviniform need only describe something "pad-like." We are into the realm of some small insects when we begin to use these words; that, indeed, is a study for another time.
Something pumiciform is "pumice-like," or returning to a word we defined above, "sponge-like." The term is especially used by geologists to describe light, spongy rocks having the consistency of pumice.
Finall, let's pause for a moment on ascidiform or arytenoid. When we get to the Ascidia, we are talking about "a class of animals connecting the molluscoid invertebrates with the Vertebrata." Well, more specifically, something ascidiform is "bottle" or "pitcher-shaped." And, it also has a meaning in botany--a pitcher-shaped leafy appendage. I wonder if the "pitcher plant," which secretes a liquid into its "pitchers" and then traps and eats bugs which fall into the liquid, would qualify as having an "ascidiform" appendage. The word arytenoid is derived from Greek words meaning "funnel" or "pitcher" (arytaina) and "shaped" (eides). The word arytenoid, however, is applied specifically to two pyramidal cartilages of the larynx which regulate the aciton of the vocal chords, and to parts connected with them.
This is enough for one day; now let's turn to some Latin phrases we might find useful, or even humorous.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long