Free Rice Words and Others XXI
Bill Long 8/25/08
Beginning with Tosticated
The OED suggests that tosticated was originally a mispronunciation of intoxicated and was used that way, but it later became associated with "tossed" and thus came to mean distracted or perplexed. Even when the meaning was "intoxicated," however, it suggested a figurative use of that term. For example, from 1650: "His tosticated conceits fixt upon renowned travel" or "being tosticated with the beauty [of something]." Jonathan Swift, writing in the early 18th century, probably represented the turning point of the word. From his 1712 Journal to Stella, "I have been so tosticated about since my last.." Here the meaning is clearly "tossed about.." A quotation from Samuel Richardson's 1748 episolary novel Clarissa; or the History of a Young Lady, suggests the word had a feminine connection: "After all, methinks, I want those tostications (thou seest how women, and women's words, fill my mind) to be over happily over, that I may sit down quietly and reflect."
The OED has both spellings; the Century only the latter. A toston was a silver coin formerly in use in various Latin American countries; in Mexico, equivalent to half a peso. But the word lying behind toston is teston, a word that is first attested in English in 1545, 300 years before toston. If we focus on teston, we understand it immediately. It was "the French name of a silver coin struck at Milan by Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1468076), bearing a portrait or head of the duke." It was called, in Italian, a testone (testa in Latin means a shell or covering; testa is Italina for "head"; a testone is a blockhead or dunce). Louis XII of France struck a similar coin for himself in his 1499 conquest of Milan; later the word was applied to equivalent silver coins though without a portrait. Here is a very clear picture of a 1514 teston depicting Louis XII. It was also a name applied to an English shilling in the late 15th century. Things just go on and on...
A Freerice.com Miscellany
Let's go more quickly in expositing words from that site, as well as other words. A rundle is a rung or step on a ladder, even though this usage is listed as "obsolete" in the OED. As the word suggests, its original meaning had to do with "a circle, a circular or annual form; a round." Perhaps the first ladders had round steps or rungs, even though most have rectangular ones today--probably for safety purposes.
Oops, it looks like I spoke too quickly again; I will need the rest of the essay to exposit canape. A canape can signify two things: either a small hors d'oeuvre, toasted and often eaten in one bite, or a sofa. Here is a web site telling you how to make them (the food, that is). The Italian word is tartina, which has not yet officially come into English, even though tartine, a slice of bread spread with butter or preserve, came into English from French in 1804. This web site is helping the case by bringing both words together:
"The French call it a tartine, Italians a tartina, but whatever you call it, its a slice of bread--an open sandwich for a perfect summer lunch."
The French word canape also means "sofa" (does the hors d'oeuvre look like one)? Here is a picture of a Louis XV-style "canape [KAH na pee] as sofa." As we see, the word canape obviously lies behind our word canopy, but since one is a covering and one is a sofa, how do the two definitions relate? Good question, and here is my answer. The Classical Latin word canopeum suggested two things: (1) "net of fine gauze about the bed, mosquito curtain" or (2) from the medieval Latin word canopeum, something hanging above the altar. Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, a 17th century Frech philologist and historian, said a canopeum was something "quod suspenditur super altare."
The Latin usage for the first was derived from the Greek word kanops, which was a "gnat, mosquito." Thus, the classical use of the word emphasized the practical use of the thing--as a sort of covering for a mosquito net. But then, even though medieval French took over the word in this sense, it developed a secondary sense of "couch," which was taken over by the Spanish and Portuguese. Thus, in the Romance languages the meaning of canape as sofa has prevailed, while canopy in English owes its origin to the Latin-Greek use of the term.
However, once mosquitoes and gnats weren't such a problem for people, perhaps because of easily enclosed sleeping areas, the canopy took on a more decorative or esthetic function rather than a practical meaning. When I sometimes talk to young people about how they want to decorate their bedroom, the woman usually says that she wants a "canopy over the bed." I don't suppose that it is either to catch gnats or to replicate an "altar" below. Maybe the modern bed canopy is a sort of furniture skeuomorph, if there is such a thing.
A skeuomorph (Greek for the "form" [morphe] of a "vessel" [skeuos]) is an object or feature copying the design of a similar artefact in another material, or more popularly, a derivative object which retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original. As this article says, "skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar." Thus, a large keyhole in a modern door would be a skeuomorph. Or, following the first definition, a plastic emblem on a car, when the first edition of the car had that emblem in a metallic form, would be a skeuomorph. A skeuomorph is not necessarily non-functional, but it may be so. Thus, the canopy may be defined as a "furniture skeuomorph," something that copies the design of similar artifacts (I prefer the American spelling to the OED's artefact), and is deliberately used to make it look "old and familiar."
I didn't get as far as I would have imagined, but there is always room for more in the next essay.