A Festival of Words VI
Bill Long 3/26/07
From Capucinade to Scheelea Palms
When you study the Primates, you soon run into the capuchin monkeys. They are an American monkey (Cebus capucinus) with black hair at the back of the head that looks something like a cowl. I think they are probably the most famous monkey in America because they are known as the "organ grinder" monkey. The capuchin monkey was named after the Friars of the same name (Capuchin, that is), whose order was recognized by Pope Clement VII in 1528. They were so called because of their sharp-pointed capuche or hood. Thus, the monkey was named after the friar, and not vice-versa.
But I managed to find a word in neither the OED or Unabridged related to them which is too good to miss: capucinade. A capucinade is a "Capuchin's tirade; a weak sermon or discourse." Thus, one could say, "It was an impotent discourse, a mere capucinade." We really don't have any word in English to capture the concept of an anemic speech; maybe we should (re)discover capucinade.
Speaking of discovering/rediscovering words, I just ran across the word haptotropism while looking for something else. You may never need to use the word, but I like the picture created by it. Derived from two Greek words meaning "touch" and "curving" or "moving," a plan that is haptotropic is one that curves or turns toward (or against) something that touches or affects it. The clearest example of this tendency in nature would be if a larger tree is overshadowing a smaller plant, the smaller of the two will begin to move its branches in the direction of the highest concentration of sunlight. It becomes haptotropic. This word first appeared in English in 1892, though it had appeared in a German article the decade previously. But, it seemed to spawn another term, thigmotropism. This word is first attested in 1900 and means a curvature induced in climbing plants by the stimulus of a rough surface. It seems, from the number of Google "hits" for the latter, that it has become more dominant than haptotropism. A cool web page illustrating thigmotropism is here.
But why do we need to limit this useful, and potentially beautiful, concept to the plant world? Why can't we use it to describe the meeting of two lovers, when they embrace together in thigmotropic energy? It is as if they respond so much to the touch of the other that they become, like the sweet pea, "entangled" about the other. Well, before leaving this word/concept, I note that the Unabridged defines haptotropism in connection with the word stereotropism. Since the Greek word "stereo" means "solid," it emphasizes not so much the "touching" of the two objects (plant and wall or obstacle) but the solid object that is touched. Now we have three words, none of which is used by anyone, but all of which invite us to think of the way that human beings are stereotropic, haptotropic or thigmotropic.
Well, after all this "touchy" stuff, let's descend into the bowels of law. The word promovent comes from admiralty and ecclesiastical law and signifies the plaintiff or one bringing the suit. From 1877 we have: "This was a suit of duplex querela arising out of the refusal..of the Bishop..to institute the promovent...to the rectory." In ecclesiastical law, a "duplex querela" was a complaint from the ordinary to his immediate supervisor. Well, if you want to know all there is to know about medieval English canon law, you can now do no better than to get Helmholz's The Oxford History of the Laws of England: Vol. 1: The Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction from 597 to the 1640s. This 740-page book by Oxford UP can be obtained for a mere $335.00. It goes into duplex querela, iure patronatus, ordo iuris, officio jurisdiction, ultimarum voluntatum, auctoritate dei patris, and many other topics that will make you wish that Latin was your mother tonque. It ranks almost 2,000,000 in popularity with Amazon, but that is no reason not to rush out and get it. Actually, it is books like this that I long to get into..
A Scheelea Palm
Let's finish this essay by returning to primate terms. Well, a palm is not a primate, but in the Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates, Noel Rowe has this to say about the Tufted Capuchin (Cebus apella): "Thes capuchins eat 96 species of fruit. The pith of Scheelea palm fronds is a keystone food during the dry season when fruit is scarce." So, innocently enough, I decided to wander into the chat room on palms. I figured there might be a few varieties of them, and then, guess what I found? Yep, you got it. There are 189 genera of palms, according to the Fairchild web site. But, in this Wikipedia article, based on a 1997 classification of palms, we have the family of palms, known as Arecaceae, and then six subfamilies, which are then divided into about 15 "tribes," which then yield hundreds of genera. The Scheelea genus is listed under "Tribe Cocoeae." I think we are in for a long and fruitful, pardon the pun, study of nature by combing the Linnaean classifications.
I should be keeping a list of all the words I discover that are neither in the OED or the Unabridged. A final one for today is Katzbalger. I came across it while I was looking for references to chanfrons (medieval horse facial armor), crinets (medieval horse neck armor) and poitrel (medieval horse body armor). It is a German sword of the Renaissance period, and it was the sword of the German Landsknecht. Actually, that last word has come into English and appears on my list--lansquenet. That is the end of our wandering for today. Tomorrow, I hope to return to some primate terminology.