Continuing with Our "F's" IV
Bill Long 11/8/08
I created a few problems at the end of the last essay in trying to ferret out the meaning of feria/ferie. Actually, as I look at it more closely, the English language is creating the difficulties, and I am just pointing them out. Let's state it this way. The word ferie (used in Wyclif) from which we get words like feriation, feriate, ferial points to "holy days" or "holidays." From 1727: "The Council allow the Grammer schollars feriot and waccancie from the date hereof to the 20th Janry." Indeed we recognize in ferie various words in both Romance and Germanic languages for "vacation."
But the word feria, as I showed, seems to point to "ordinary" days. Perhaps we can focus the problem as follows, with the help of the Century. The word ferial has both a legal and eccleasiastical usage. In law (Scottish), a ferial day is one where it was not proper for courts to be held or any legal actions to be taken. Yet, in the ecclesiastical world ferial pertained to any day of the week which is not appointed for a specific fast or festival. Ferial use was to be contrasted with festal use. More can be said about the legal use. In Roman antiquity, according to the Century, feriae were:
"holidays during which free Romans suspended their political transactions and lawsuits, and slaves enjoyed a cessation of labor. The feriae were thus dies nefasti."*
[Nefasti is related to the Latin nefarius, from which we get our word nefarious, and nefarius means "offending against the moral law, wicked." The "ne" is a negative and the word "fas" means what is "right, proper, in accordance with divine or moral law." In law dies fasti were judicial days; thus dies nefasti were those for which legal activities were not permitted].
Thus, law points one way (feria as holiday) and church points another way (feria as ordinary day). The OED doesn't even try to sort this out. What does the esteemed Century say about this?
"This use [of feria as ordinary day] constitutes a reversal of the original meaning of the word of which there appears to be no adequate explanation."
Thanks, Century. Let's return to our "f's."
Let's continue with farrow and farctate. Farrow has several meanings, though I only am interested in the simplest one--a young pig (obsolete) or a litter of pigs. Shakespeare, who could do things in language that only Evgeny Kissin can do with Chopin, used it to refer also to a single pig. From Macbeth: "Power in Sow's blood, that hath eaten/ Her nine Farrow." Or, from the same period by another author: "The Lavinians were much troubled about the significatin of such a monstrous farrow."
Farctate is a much more fruitful word, even if defined more briefly. The OED simply has "stuffed, crammed or full; without vacuities." It derives from the Latin farctus, the past participle of farcire "to stuff." Its opposite is hollow or tubular. But we are most familiar with this word by the medicinal use of infarction. An infarction is "the action of stuffing up or condition of being stuffed up, obstruction." The OED tells us that it is "now usually restricted to morbid conditions of the tissues resulting from obstruction of the circulation, as by an embolus." An embolus, in Greek, is a "peg" or "stopper" and an "embolism" is an obstruction in a blood-vessel. Thus, an embolism is something inserted in a blood vessel.
I wrote the preceding sentence because of a most unusual usage of embolism. In the liturgies of various rites in the Greek Orthodox church, an embolism is a prayer occurring after the Lord's prayer and before the Communion. It is an "inserted" prayer, a kind of peg or stopper or insertion between what you would naturally think as going together (the Lord's Prayer and the Communion). From 1720: "What follows the Lord's Prayer has been added since Gregory's Time, and is called by some of the Romanists themselves an Embolism or Interpolation." Pay close attention to words, and they will reward you for that attention...
Concluding with Fantod and Fad
A fantod is a "crotchety way of acting." Something that is "crotchety" is, as you probably realize, "full of crotchets." In Middle French a crochet is a hook or crook. Another meaning of crotchet in English is "a pole or prop with a forked top." This "forkedness" of the word crotchet helps explain our word crotch, though I am not going between the legs here. Back to fantod. Therefore a "crotchety" person is one who is full of hooks or forks, someone who isn't smooth or clean. You can get seriously "hung up" or "cut up" with a "crotchety" person. It can also be a noun--to describe such a "hung up" person. A fantod can thus be snit or a swivet. I have written about being "in a swivet" here. From 1880: "I'd do the tricks, if I was she, 'fore I'd put up with such fantads from you." Yet Mark Twain changed the meaning a bit in the mid-1880s. We have this, from Huckleberry Finn, "These was all nice pictures...but I didn't somehow seem to take to them, because..they always gave me the fan-tods." Twain's combination of words ("give me the fan-tods") then was picked up by later writers. From 1910: "Sundays inside of a house gives you the fan-tods." Or, from John Masefield in 1935: "'I say,' Kay said, 'what a place!' 'It gives me the fantods,' Peter answered. 'I don't like the place.'" What would be an equivalent word today? Perhaps something that gives me the "creeps" or, when I was growing up, the "heebie-jeebies." Or, it may make one feel "weird" or "weirded out." Listen to young people, who are always in states of emotinal exultation or desolation. I am sure that they have other expressions for "fantods."
Well, I am out of space here for this essay, but I must close it with a bit of a titillation, I hope (if words can titillate you). The OED definition of fantod really was not simply "a crotchety way of acting." It then said, "a fad." A fad? All of a sudden I didn't know what a fad was. Studying words does that to you. It gives you gifts, and then it takes away what you think you know. Next essay, I hope, I will get into what a fad is...