62. Pages 411-430
Bill Long 6/2/05
It is becoming apparent to me as I study the dictionary that I am not satisfied just with learning the words on a list. I need to stop and listen to many of them along the way. But, when I do this, it is as if I am only permitted a taste or just a scent of a most delicious thing before having to pass on to the next word. It creates a dilemma for me, because I would love to settle down into each word but, at the same time, I know that my journey through portions of the dictionary this time is a quick one. Maybe after the Bee, after I settle back into my mid-summer, I will focus on sections of the dictionaries, such as words beginning with "im" and "in" and "en." Vocabulary and thought would be so enriched as a result.
Turning to Some Words
Let's move quickly through some. The first word, endosteal, reminds me of my current knowledge/academic limitations, for it is defined as "of or pertaining to the endosteum," which itself is "the lining membrane of the medullary cavity of a bone; the internal periosteum." The Collegiate just has it as something within bone or cartilage. So, in order to understand endosteal I would have to know all about bones and the words used to describe them. Sadly, I am not going to get that knowledge today. Enduro is a long race focusing on endurance rather than speed. The enosis was a movement to secure political unification of Greece and Cyprus in the 20th century. Ensiform, which I have written about previously, means "having sharp edges," and usually refers to the shape of a leaf. Erose is also on the list today, and is also often used to describe the shape of a leaf. Literally meaning "gnawed," something that is erose is notched or irregular in shape, and looks like a furry little creature has taken tiny bites out of it. Entasis is a slight columnar convexity in Greek temple columns, designed in order for the temple to look perfectly symmetric from a distance.
Enthalpy is the "total heat" in a system. The dictionaries give a sentence describing the way to calculate it, but suffice it to say that I wasn't going to go down that road today. Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects--something that children have mastered even before they know what to call it. Entropion is the turning inward of the eyelid. It is a common disorder in dogs, and can damage the vision unless corrected either by creams or possibly by surgery. Epazote are the fresh or dry-pungent smelling leaves of wormseed--used especially in Mexican cooking. Epizootiology is defined as the sum of factors controlling the occurrence of a disease of animals or the science dealing with the character, ecology and causes of outbreaks of animal diseases.
Turning to some Thinking
The first word beckoning for more detailed consideration is enfilade. Derived from the French word having to do with thread, enfilade can either be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it is a line or lineup of things, whether a row of trees that shades a street or a row of soldiers lined up for battle. It can also mean a suite of apartments or rooms whose doorways are placed opposite to each other. Thus, in some descriptions of large homes, you can find the word enfilade used to describe the rooms lined up in such a way that you can look in the first doorway and see all the way to the end of the last room. As a noun, also, it can be a fire from artillery which sweeps into a line of people from one end to another. Its most frequent used as a verb is in a military context, where it means "to rake or to be in position to 'rake' troops from end to end with a fire in the direction of its length." Thus, we could refer to a lineup of troops enfiladed to greet a visiting dignitary; an enfiladed wing of a house, or to enfilade the enemy position in a raid on it. When we use the word we get the picture of something either set up in a line or sweeping through a line of people or objects.
Let's stop for a moment on engrailed. The Collegiate has it as "indented with small concave curves" or "made of or bordered by a circle of raised dots" (as in an engrailed coin), but the Century has a nice picture of an engrailed heraldic shield. It is difficult even with a picture to know the difference between engrailed and invected designs, but suffice it to say that engrailed means cut into concave semicircular indents. Usually the engrailments run through the center of the shield; sometimes it covers the border or bordure of the shield. One of the online guides to heraldry describes the semicircular indents as "bites." I think that there may be a promising humanistic future for engrailed if we pay attention to the original meaning of engrail: "to pit or indent as by a shower of hail." Such an indentation would not make all the cuts as neatly semicircular as in the shields I examined, but would free the word to mean any kind of rounded indentations in an object.
Let's conclude with the word enisle. It means to "make an isle of" or, figuratively, to isolate or place apart. Matthew Arnold has a suggestive short poem in which makes use of the term:
"Yes! In the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone."
John Donne would say that no man is an island; no one is enisled. But Arnold's poetry reflects more the reality of the 19th and 20th centuries than Donne's optimistic words from two centuries earlier. We might more properly say that many people live their lives enaisled, in supermarkets, Costco and other places where one wants to buy consumer goods.
But, perhaps more than being enisled, we might aspire to be enskied some day. To ensky means to exalt, or to place in heaven or among the gods. Shakespeare could say, "I hold you as a thing ensky'd and sainted" (MfM 1.5). I love the way Shakespeare can add an "en" to a normal word and turn it into a verb and then intensify its meaning. Something that is emblazoned on our hearts is something ineffaceable (the word emblazon is taken from heraldry); someone enskied in our hearts is already exalted to a high status. "Enskied always will you be in our hearts." I suppose someone might be enskied in a heart--they don't just have to be exalted into heaven to be enskied. Maybe the two can be combined. "John Paul II will be enskied because he was first in human hearts enskied."
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long