More Free Rice Words X
Bill Long 5/17/08
Some Three-Letter Words; Moving to the Five-Letters..
Lots of shorter words are tricky. Let's try to learn the next 15 words in this essay: (1) rya; (2) ted; (3) ; (4) perse; (5) lamia; (6) sevum; (7) fjeld; (8) lappa; (9) liber; (10) talma; (11) potto; (12) tazza; (13) redia; (14) pingo; and (15) bwana.
1. The word rya only came into English from Swedish in 1957, but since then has been used frequently. It is a "Scandinavian type of knotted pile rug." Here is a picture of a rya blanked. It is named after a town in SW Sweden.
2. To ted means to "turn over and spread out to the air to dry," as in tedding new-mown grass or hay. A 1577 book on husbandry caught the importance of the task: "The Grasse being cutte, must be well tedded and turned in the Sommer." Early attestations of tedding tell us that grass must be tedded before it is "made in cockes." What is a cock, in this instance? The second definition of the noun in the OED is "a conical heap of produce of material, especially of hay." From as early as 1398 we have: "Heye is..gadered and made of hepes in to cockes." Great news.
3. The only time I had run into swot before was when I was acquainted with more business consultants than I am now, and they used this abbreviation to stand for "strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats," as an aid for them to analyze any situation. But swot actually is a term going back to the mid-19th century and means "work or study at school or college." In its early significantion it related to mathematics, but soon took on the general meaning of "labor" or "toil." The OED notes that it may have originated in a Royal Military College where a Scotch professor of mathematics talked about making his students "swot," i.e., "sweat." A swot is also someone who studies hard, especially for exams.
4. The word perse is not per se, which means "by itself." Rather it is derived from post-classical Latin persus, which means "of a dark blue color." So, it is dark blue, bluish-grey, purplish-black, etc.
5. A lamia, from the Latin word signfying a witch who was supposed to suck children's blood, was a fabulous monster with the body of a woman, who engaged in this and other activities. This is "Munchausen Sydrome by Proxy" with a vengeance, I suppose. Wyclif first used the word in his 1382 translation of Is. 34:15 and Lam. 4:3. The latter begins: "The cruel beestis clepid (called) lamya, nakeden ther tetes (heads)... Bayard Taylor's late 19th century translation of Goethe's Faust has this line: "They are the Lamiae, wenches vile,/ With brazen brows and lips that smile." Keep smiling.
6. Sevum is the internal fat of the abdomen of the sheep, purified by melting and straining. Pharmacologists use this suet in the preparation of ointments, or so I read. The Latin behind it is sevum, sebum. The latter word generates all kind of English words--from sebaceous to sebacic....
7. You know when you see extra "j's" thrown in a word that you are in Scandinavia. A fjeld is an elevated rocky plateau, almost devoid of vegetation.
8. The word lappa comes from the Hausa people in central Nigeria, and denotes a woman's shawl or skirt. I really think that in order to know all the words, so to speak, that we need to know several from probably three dozen languages other than English. So, if you are keeping track of "Hausa words," you now have one. The word is so simple that school children learn it--but so difficult that unless you are aware of intercultural realities, it will remain foreign to you.
9. Liber has nothing to do with being free, but is the inner bark of a tree. Actually, we know that the sound "lib" has to do with books. What is the connection? The Romans used the thin layer found between the bark and the wood of a tree, the liber, before parchment was invented. So, this is the connection is between inner bark and books...
10. A talma is a 19th century cloak worn by both men and women. From 1852, describing the Pueblo Indians: "The most beautiful part of their dress is a talma.., which is thrown over the shoulders, fastened in front, and hanging down behind, reaches halfway below the knee." But it isn't confined to the Pueblo Indians. As Hawthorne could write a short time later, "I walked through the Forum (where a thorn thrust itself out and tore the sleeve of my talma), and under the Arch of Titus into the Coliseum. It was named after Francois-Joseph Talma, an early 19th century French actor and theatrical company manager (1763-1826), whose revolution in stage costuming (including this garment) shaped the theater of the 19th century.
11. With the potto we return to the land of primates. This is a small, nocturnal, slow-moving African primate, whose Linnaean name has "potto" in it: Perodicticus potto. Here is a picture. It is classified as a Strepsirrhine, a rather newish term in cladistics. This is not the time for the course in the "updating" of our classification system. Maybe after I have mastered the human genome...
12. I knew the word tazza from my Italian--it is a glass. This was one of the suggested definitions; I selected it and got it wrong. In fact, a tazza is a "shallow ornamental bowl or vase supported on a foot." Here ya are. With so many words representing rather simple-to-understand objects, we realize truly how easy learning can be...
13. Until we come to redia. You have to know a lot for this word to make sense. It is the second larval stage of some trematodes (fluke-worms), which intervenes between the ciliated embryo and the more developed form known as the cercaria. Well, now you have something to inquire about from biologists when you are at a dull party and would like to learn something.
14. I don't know my Greenlandic Inuit well, but if I did, i would understand that pingo is a word in that language to describe a hillock, especially a peak of rock covered by ice but which remains distinguishable as a rock. This article tells you all about them--and even distinguishes small pingos with rounded tops and larger ones that have breaks in the top and form craters.
15. We end with the Swahili term for respect, bwana. It is equivalent to "the master" or "Sir." This article shows how the term, being used by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the Tarzan stories, took on a more pejorative connotation, even though that isn't the original meaning of the term.
We are making progress, despite the feeling that the list of these new words is endless.