More Free Rice Words XI
Bill Long 5/17/08
The Barrage of Five-Letter Words Continues
In this essay I propose to introduce you to the following five-letter words: (1) sadhu; (2) ozena; (3) soave; (4) sonsy; (5) squit; (6) kumis; (7) canna; (8) tabla; (9) spica; (10) ploat; (11) teind; (12) botte; (13) laksa; (14) snoek; and (15) koppa. Let's go..
1. A sadhu is a holy man or sage in India. A sadhu is devoted to sadhana: practice or learning to achieve a spiritual goal. I found two vivid quotations. First, from Rudyard Kipling's Kim: "He switched out his..turban-cloth and ...rolled it over and under about his loins into the intricate devices of a Saddhu's cincture.." Or, from the Times Literary Supplement in 1978: "The Hindu Sadhus were pythons of the psychic world, where slumberous coils contained, and at the same time hid, the force of a battering ram." I love that phrase--the "pythons of the psychic world."
2. I discuss ozena, a "smell-related" word here, and I can't take it any further than I did there...
3. Soave is a town in N. Italy--and is used to designate a dry wine made there. As an adverb, soave means "gently, softly, with delicacy and tenderness." I forget which meaning the freerice.com site used. Well, if you know both, you won't go wrong.
4. Sonsy and donsie/donsy are two Gaelic terms denoting, respectively, bringing good luck or bringing bad luck/being dreary and low-spirited. Sonsy can also mean, referring to a female, "attractive, comely and pleasant," as in the sentence: "A sonsy, blond-haired young Flemish maiden sat there." A sentence using donsy is "she brought some letters to my room, to keep me from feeling donsy."
5. The word squit can mean two things: (a) an insignificant or diminutive person or (b) stupid or silly talk. The word came into English in 1825--to express extreme contempt for someone, you can call him "a paltry squit!" It could be associated only with a woman (in an 1847 quotation), though it is an equal opportunity word, as can be seen from this 1889 quotation: "He's not half a bad little squit." The word squirt to express a diminutive person came about in mid-19th century, and the usage was invented in America.
6. Kumis, also spelled koumiss, comes from the Turkic word (phew, another language!) kimiz, and denotes a fermented dairy product traditionally made from mares' milk. It remains a popular drink among traditional Himilayan people, which unfortunately are not in my lineage.
7. I really shouldn't have had to define canna, but I was tired when I came across it and didn't recognize it. But, of course, it is a plant, sometimes large and brightly colored--yellow, red, orange, that will make your day if you see one. Well, why don't you look at this one, a painting of one by Georgia O'Keeffe?
8. Tabla takes us into the world of Indian (Asian) music and their instruments. Tabla is a popular percussion instrument consisting of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres. Here is a picture. This is certainly not the place to go into more detail on all the various Indian drums....
9. Behind spica is the Latin spica, an ear of grain. Our word "spike" is derived from it. Thus, there is some kind of "sharpness" in view here. One of the definitions, which I think freerice.com picked up on, is "a form of bandage, the arrangement of which is suggestive of an ear of wheat or barley." But what is specifically meant by a spica bandage is one applied to the body and first part of a limb that overlaps slightly with each "layer," so as to resemble an ear of wheat." If you search for images under "spica bandage" you get a few pictures.
10. Ploat is a great verb meaning "to pluck; to strip of feathers" or, figuratively, "to rob, plunder; fleece; scold." "See how she ploats him." Or, to express the inclination to rob someone: "They'll ploat him, fleece him." The noun-form predated the verb by more than a century. A ploater was a worker who trims the nap (i.e., wooly material on the surface) of cloth.
11. A teind is the tenth part of anything. This Scottish word could also be associated with the "tithe," the tenth part of labor paid to the established religion. There was even at one time a "Court" or "Commission of Teinds," where questions relating to the law of church tithes (who owed what, I suppose) were adjudicated.
12. The only thing that the OED says about botte is preceded by a question mark--"? A brand or marking on sheep." I don't recall if this is the tree up which freerice.com was barking. Botte is the Italian word for barrel or cask.
13. If you really are a connoisseur of international foods, you no doubt know that laksa is a "popular spicy noodle soup" from SE Asia. Here is an article. I suppose there are two kinds of laksa noodles: curry laksa and assam laksa.
14. A snoek is the snake mackerel, Thyrsites atun, a large marine food fish found in the Southern Hemisphere oceans. Hm... I wonder if the Linnaean name is derived from Thersites, the ugly guy in the Iliad? I guess they also are in the Northern Hemisphere, since this picture shows a monster snoek in a fisherman's hands off the Netherlands.
15. The koppa was a letter of the earliest Greek alphabet ('q'), analogous in form and corresponding in position with the Hebrew koph and Latin "Q." The kappa ("k") was later substituted for it. There actually were three Greek letters that became obsolete before the time of our Homeric Greek: digamma, vau, koppa. Each one of these is known as an episemon (pl. episema).