Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Bill Long 10/12/04
More Of "It" Hits the Fan
Well, we can't leave copro just yet. I mentioned coprophilia in the last essay, and don't want to leave the impression that the indulgence in excremental pleasures is confined to mentally retarded people or children. Indeed, we can gradually try to disengage ourselves from the phenomenon by placing the "problem" back where it is "normally" practiced, the lower orders of creation. An interesting play on words is used to describe a whole series of Amoeba-like and flaggelate Protozoa which develop in the feces after deposition and are called "coprozoic Protozoa." Coprozoic literally means "dung-livers." Hold that thought. I will return to it in a moment.
But we need to finish up on copro and give the Latin stercus near-equal time, and so we must hasten to say a word about coprolalia, the "use of obscene language by reason of insanity or for sexual gratification." Now, isn't that interesting. The image repays a little thought, doesn't it? Why would the OED put insantity and sexual gratification in the same sentence? The reason the OED does so is because the 19th century attestations of the word, in the Victorian era, emphasize the "insane" nature of speaking this way, while the 20th century, sexually-liberated, quotations, probably see it as a turn-on in love-making.
So, from the staid Journal of Nervous and Medical Disorders (1886) comes the following usage, "Echolalia [that is, always echoing someone] and coprolalia may form part of the symptoms of insanity." Hm. I thought echolalia would get one invited to particiaptes on the reality TV show The Apprentice. Nevertheless, the good doctors of the late 19th century tried to sequester the coprolaliacs along with other insane people. Thus the producer of the porn movie, Speak Dirty to Me (I think there were probably 40 or 50 sequels), would have been a prime candidate for an English mental asylum near the end of Victoria's long reign.
I dare say, however, that if you went to a psychologist today and, after much prodding, confessed that your major mental disturbance was coprolalia, you would probably be encouraged to continue the practice rather than chastised for thinking and talking this way. Filth just ain't what it used to be.
Moving over to Stercus
We have finally rid ourselves of this Greek filth. Maybe the Romans, whom we know did not indulge themselves in all manner of morally reprehensible conduct as did the Greeks, will also have cleaned up their terminology. But, alas, the Oxford Latin Dictionary just has a bunch (is there a ordure-laden synonym?) of terms beginning with sterc. But, wait. Most of the terms are from the world of agriculture, and several of the quotations in that dictionary are from the early 2nd century (B.C.E.) M. Portius Cato's de Agri cultura, so maybe the Romans aren't so bad after all. Well, I suppose it is not the Romans I am ultimately interested in here, but the way we use the word in English. So, let's return.
As we enter into the sterco-dung world, the word stercovorous, meaning "dung eating," appears. We have the term stercoricolous, meaning to dwell in manure, but the paucity of attestations allows us the freedom to interpret it either as a plant which thrives when it is nourished in dung (the more probable meaning--a stercoricolous flower) or, if we are feeling in a particularly bad mood, we might use the word to describe the living situation of a person we don't like. "Many of us would love to dwell in freedom, except for my stercoricolous opponent." We sometimes refer to someone as a "stick in the mud." Let's take off the gloves and use stercoricolous to define such a person.
Then there are a few words that emphasize the process of spreading manure. To stercorate means to "manure or dung" and stercoration is "the action or an act of manuring with dung." There was a Roman agricultural deity, the god of fertilization, called Sterquilinus or Stercutus, who may have been the same deity as Picumnus, a god of fertility, agriculture, matrimony, infants and children. Gods, in the ancient world, could expand their holdings just as wealthy people can in our day. Coleridge in the 19th century mused: "When there was a god Sterquilinius, an agricultural poet might be allowed to sing of stercoration.
In researching this article, I discovered an interesting mushroom-type plant called the Coprinus sterquilinus, a sort of "double-shit" plant, which has large ellipsoid spores on its cone-shaped head and has its habitat on dung (i.e, is stercocolous). The article on it says that it is "widespread but very rare." I guess sort of like people north of the Arctic Circle. This doubling of the references to dung in its name should give comfort to all God's creatures who think they are full of shit.
The most general word involved with the sterco root is stercoraceous, meaning "consisting of, containing, or pertaining to feces." Anything that consists, contains or pertains to is a pretty broad concept. One can have stercoraceous filth or stercoraceous matter. But then, in a usage that includes the concept of "vomiting," one can have the following icky sentence from a medical journal, "This shock..is ..followed by vomiting, at first gastric, then bilious, and finally stercoraceous or fecal." Not only do I regret that I didn't use this nice "threesome" in my essay on "Threes," but it got me feeling very sorry for the person who vomits in this way.
And, I would have loved to leave this filthy field after two essays, but one more use of sterco draws me on. I don't think it will take an entire essay, but I have to deal with it.
[On to Dung III]
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long