Finishing Up the "List"
Bill Long 10/15/08
Some Miscellaneous Words
I have a few dozen words beginning with "s" which I would like to clarify, but first I need to "clean up" the following from the previous essay: lunula, callid, stukach and nunquam satis.
10. The Wikipedia article on lunula is actually pretty useful. Derived from the Latin word for moon (lunula is a diminutive of luna, meaning "moon"), the lunula is the little white "half moon" at the base of the fingernails, most visible in the thumb nails. I didn't know that you can find warning signs of liver, kidney and lung diseases there, as well as heart problems. I suppose you can also tell if you have a hangnail.... Well, I scrolled up the page a bit and came upon lunokhod, which I hadn't seen previously. It is a word coined by the Russians (we adopted it in 1970) to describe "a type of Russian self-propelled, radio-controlled vehicle for transmitting information about the moon as it travels over the surface." I know Hummers were big Christmas presents when people were rich, a few years ago. Someday, when moon travel is accessible to all, perhaps a lunokhod or two will end up in people's stockings.
11. I came across stukach when I was looking for soemthing else (I think I was researching all the meanings of stultify), and discovered that this, too, is a Russian word, brought over to English in 1969 and meaning "an informer" or "stool pigeon." It is actually Russian slang, derived from the verb meaning "to talk" and hence, among criminals, 'to inform' or 'to squeal.' From 1975: "The friends of the defendants were equally spirited in defense. They called their taunters stukachi (informers) and asked them if they really believed that the Soviet troops in Prague were providing fraternal aid."
12. When you do a "Google" search under callid, you come up with all the listings for "caller ID" (call-id) and thus your search is vitiated. Yet, it is a very useful term, and it comes from the Latin callidus, meaning "expert, shrewd." Though the word is listed as "rare," I don't see why it should be so. It is easy to pronounce, it has a determinate and clear meaning, it fills a gap for words describing a skillful person. Callidity is a noun and means "skill" or "discernment" or "shrewdness." However, its first usage emphsized the bad sense of the word: cunning. From 1524: "His Holines, unto whom the callidities and crafty circumvencions of France be not unknowen." Actually, the only examples given in the OED for the word emphasize the "cunning" or "dishonest" dimension to the term; perhaps we can bring it back with a positive meaning.
13. I have put off talking about nunquam satis for many an essay because, after all, this is a G or PG-rated set of essays. But here goes. The two Latin words literally mean "never enough," but the English definition is "the vagina," according to the OED. The words come from a play of Plautus (Truculentus), where line 239 runs:
"nunquam satis dedit suae...amicae amator.."
In English it is:
"The lover never gave enough to his beloved."
So, I suppose it is best rendered as the thing never satisfied. I am surprised that only the OED has a reference to nunquam satis as the vagina; no real Google search results bring this up. I would love to be able to uncover this subject a bit more fully, but now now....The idea is reminiscent of Proverbs 30:15-16:
"The leech has two daughers;
'Give, give,' they cry.
Three things are never satisfied;
four never say, 'Enough':
Sheol, the barren womb,
the earth ever thirsty for water,
and the fire that never says, 'Enough.'"
Hm...Now maybe I have a fifth thing that never says "Enough!"
Moving to the S's
I will begin my study of some interesting words beginning with "s" in the next essay, but let's close this one with reference to a few terms from international currency: penni and pesewa. I, for one, am glad there now is a Euro, but the memory of the old currencies, as well as the words, persist. For example, the penni was the monetary unit of Finland, equal to 1/100 of a markka. Here is a page on the history of Finnish currency, if that is your interest. It begins:
By virtue of the gracious edict of Tsar Alexander II, issued on 4 April 1860, Finalnd had received its own monetary unit, the markka, tied to the Russian rouble.."
Well, times went from bad to worse to better, and the markka was sometimes tied to silver and sometimes to gold. On the linked site is a picture of a 10 copper Penni coin, issued in the 1860s. The other copper coins in the series were five and one penni. The obverse featured monograms of the Grand Dukes of Finland (Alexander II, III and Nikolai II). After the March 1917 revolution, the coins featured an uncrowned double-headed eagle of Russia.
I will get to the "s"-currency terms in the next essay, but let's close this essay with mention of the pesewa. The pesewa is the monetary unit of Ghana, introduced in 1965 and equivalent to 1/100 of a cedi. From a 1965 article in the London Times: "All banks in Ghana will be closed from Thursday while the country switches over from pounds, shillings and pence to a decimal currency--cedis and pesewas." Here is a website on the new (2007) cedis and peswas (note spelling). On the back of the one-cedi note is a picture of the Akosombo Dam; the ten-cedi note has a picture of the Bank of Ghana building [gives 10X as much "power" as the dam?], etc.
Let's move now, to a bunch of "s's."