Palin and Lalia
Theological Terms I
Theological Terms II
Theol. Terms III
Noso and Noce/Nocu
Milton, Book I (PL)
Oo and Ovi
Labors of Hercules I
Oblectation et al.
Dissimulare et al.
Acroama et al.
Tetrous et al.
Commeate et al.
Obsolete et al.
Subtle et al. I
Hesitate et al. (Ovid)
Excoriate et al. I
Excoriate et al. II
Pinguid, Oblect/ate... I
Bill Long 1/1/09
And Others, Such as Dimication, Preconize, Obrute..
I have been reading Cicero's speech on defense of the poet Archias for pleasure. In order to "improve" your Latin, if that is your interest, you ought to find an old edited school Latin reader, for that is really the best way to learn the language. Our forebears were tortured for generations by having to read Cicero, Caesar and others; but we bear the relatively painless fruit of their torture by having the volumes of edited speeches/works of these authors, designed to teach us this really quite difficult language. It is important, I think, to spend hours trying to learn Latin, since it truly is the mother of English.
Let's begin with the word pinguid and see where it wants to take us. Cicero makes the point, in his typically overstated style, about how various Roman generals or civic officials, such as Metellus Pius, granted citizenship to various people. He then argues a fortiori: if the Roman generals in the field had the authority to grant citizenship, actions that still stand today, why should we revoke the action of law, which granted Archias his citizenship? The thing to get excited about today is not so much whether or not Archias should maintain his citizenship (I really don't care about that one), but the line which introduces another a fortiori argument. We should listen to Archias, Cicero argues, since Pius granted a hearing even to Cordoban poets, pingue quiddam sonantibus atque peregrinum. These italicized words could be translated: "who composed dull and barbarous verses." Another translation has, "whose poetry had a very heavy and foreign flavor." The word translated alternately as "dull" or "heavy" is pinguis, pingue (an adjective). It has come into English as pinguid.
The OED tells us that the Latin pinguis means "fat, plump, fatty, greasy, rich, fertile." Thus, it found its primary home in the world of animal excrescences or the agricultural world. Coming into English, this meaning of pinguid became "of the nature of or resembling fat, fatty; greasy, oily." The OED tells us that the "rich, fertile" meaning, with reference to soil, is obsolete. As if the "fatty" meaning isn't! In any case, we have the "soil" sense, from the 17th century: "Beds of Pinguid and Luxuriant Soil." The "fatty" sense is in this 1769 quotation: "[He] snuffs the pinguid haunch's sav'ry steam." Or, from 1990: "He held my hand too long in pinguid fingers." One might even have pinguid hair, as this 1923 quotation suggests: "Her principal feature was.. a wig as dark and curly and pinguid as Perique tobacco." So, think fatty, greasy, oily--and you have pinguid.
But Cicero obviously was using the word to describe a literary style. The OED tells us that this usage of pinguid means "clumsy" or "coarse." Thus, we have "dull, heavy, coarse, clumsy" to describe the lines of the Cordoban poets. Yet, the OED also tells us that "in extended use" it can mean "unctuous (oily); florid. Also: weighty, overly large." Well, the first attestation of the use of pinguid in this sense comes from someone who refers to our friend Cicero, but in a different context. From 1768: "A pinguid turgid style, as Tully calls the Asiatic rhetoric." In fact, in Archias he was referring to the pinguidity of the Cordoban style. Maybe he just didn't like anyone's Latin who wasn't born and bred in Italy!
Taking it a Little Further
I was surprised, and delighted, to discover that pinguid is the fruitful mother of words in English. The Century has pinguefy, which means "to fatten" or "to make greasy" or "to make (the soil) rich and fertile." I like Ralph Cudworth's 1678 figurative usage: "The..Fumers, and Nidours of Sacrifices; wherewith their Corporeal and Spiritous Part, is as it were Pinguified." We spell the word nidor today--"the smell given off by animal substances, esp. of a fatty or greasy nature..." Then we have pinguitude, a "fatness" or "growing fat." From 1661: "He spares him in grosse sins, it may be too,/ Lest they with pinguitude his Soul imbue." Now we have a nice clear picture of this. The soul, weighed down with pinguitude, is unable to connect with God. Maybe that is a good word to describe an exhausted person you see walking towards you, with heavy step, as if the weight of the world is on his/her shoulders.
But we could go on with words derived from pinguid for quite some time. We would have pinguity, pinguitudinous, pinguitescent. Though the latter word has the meaning of "having a greasy lustre," I think that we can read the inceptive "escent" very strongly--as "becoming fat." "His pinguitescence was a sign of early mid-career success, the kind of success which would end up sucking all of the creative energies and life out of him..." I guess I just love the sound of the word pinguid, and I would look for all the opportunities I can to use it..
Oh, in passing, I ought to note that the Century tells us that the pingui root is in certain genuses of living things. The Pinguipes ("fat foot") are a genus of Pinguipedinae, containing latiloid fishes whose ventral fins are covered with a thick membrane, whence the name. Or, the Pinguicula, named by Conrad Gesner in 1541, is a genus of plants, known popularly as the butterworts, characterized by "the spreading [hence pinguid] posterior corolla-lobe.."
A really good essay would then try to compare and contrast pinguid to other "uid/id"-words in English. Three most similar and most prominent are languid, torpid, gravid. They all reflect a kind of heaviness, slowness, benumbedness, a sense that you just have to move very slowly through life. Torpid suggests the dullness of the experience of being numb; gravid the heaviness of pregnancy; languid the tiredness which arises from/leads to weakness or faintness. So many good words to distinguish and then to use for the expression of precise thoughts, feelings and states of reality...
There really are a lot of things to learn, so let's continue with a few "Ciceronian" terms in the next essay.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long