New Free Rice Words and Others
Bill Long 9/20/08
Let's begin this new "page" of word studies with a number of words starting with "s." A few are stouthrife, sparganum, saffian, springle, safranin, subception, staddle and sooey. Not all of these are "quality words," but each has a little story to tell.
1. A springle is also a springe (pron. sprinj) and is a device or trap for catching small game. Shakespeare used the word in Hamlet (V.2.317): "A woodcock to mine own springe." Springe can also be used as a verb to mean "to catch in a snare" or "to set snares." From 1891: "Vast quantities of snipe...are netted or springed." But the verb springle also is synonymous with sprinkle. Chesterton could say in 1910: "Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to springle these pages."
2. Once you see a picture of a staddle-stone (here), you will never-forget this mushroom-shaped upright stone that served as a base for a granary in England. This site says that over 50% of the harvest was often lost to vermin; thus a stone so shaped would not only keep the grain away from the ground, make it difficult for most vermin to get at it, but also would allow the terriers and cats space to attack the approaching mice or rats. Nowadays many staddle stones just stick up out of the lawns of old English estates, mute reminders of a distant past. We might use this word figuratively--to describe those psychological "growths" in our heart/mind that testify to an old method of dealing with a problem that no longer exists today. But staddle also has a wider range of meaning. Derived ultimately from the Latin word for "standing," it can be a young tree left standing when others are cut down. Finally, a staddle is a staff or prop, as this quotation from the Faerie Queene shows: "His weake steps governing/ And aged limbs on cypresse stadle stout."
3. We will return to old England in a second, but first let's talk about sooey, a word of "origin obscure," according to the OED but meaning "an exclamation used to call or drive pigs." An early usage said that it was peculiar to Mississippi; indeed, Faulkner used the word in 1941: "'Sooey out of here,' he said. The shoat gave a grunt of startled surprise." A shoat, by the way, is a "young weaned pig." As to origin, why not posit a derivation from the Latin sus, which means "pig" or "swine"? By the way, while roaming throught the dictionary with words like suillary (swinish) and suilline (relating to an animal of the family Suidae or swine), I ran across sui-mate, which is an old term for a game of chess where the object is to give away all your pieces; you literally create "self-mate."
4. Let's return to England and the old common law term spelled stouthrife in freerice.com It is spelled stouthreif in the OED and stouthrief in the Century (pron. STUTH reef). Derived from the Scottish word rief/reif, which means "robbery," stouthrief is "theft accompanied by violence; robbery." The Century tells us that it was used to describe situations where robbery was committed within a dwelling-house. The total number of Google results for all three usages is less than 4,000; why don't we have a brief convention to normalize the spelling...? A 1578 Scottish law differentiated among three kinds of theft: "Only landit men...convict of the crymes of commoun thift resett or thift or stouth reiff...shall incur the cryme and pane of tressoun."
5. When we come to sparganum, we are in the realm of tapeworms, which generally aren't on the front burner of many people's concern. The Greek word spargan underlies this, and means "to swell." Therefore, spargosis is a kind of swelling in the body--legs or breasts--that results from the infection of with tapeworm of this genus. This web site describes all kinds of tapeworms, reserving some space for a discussion of the spargana. This same site defines a sparganum (spar GARN um) as an early stage in the growth of a tapeworm. Here is an image of spargana.
6. The word saffian finds its home around the Baltic sea and East into Persia, and is a leather made from goatskins or sheepskins tanned with sumac and dyed in bright colors. The word first appeared in English in 1591: "His buskins are made of a Persian leather called Saphian." Images of this kind of leather good abound online. Here is a bridal notebook in fine white saffian leather. Don't you wish you knew, by touch, all the fabrics/skins in the world?
7. Safranin is spelled safranine in the OED and is "the yellow coloring mater of saffron." Well, that definition is obsolete, so we will go to this one: "A coal-tar color which dyes yellowish-red." It gives yellowish-red shades on wool, silk, and cotton." I wish I knew my chemistry better....
8. Let's conclude this essay with subception, which brings us into the familiar, if murky, field of psychology. The word never really caught on, even though it was coined in 1949 by McLeary & Lazarus to describe the problem of "discrimination without awareness." In this 1951 article, they explain how they struggled for a term to describe a perceptual process that isn't conscious but isn't best described as subconscious. In fact, they discarded the term "subconscious perception" to describe this unaware discrimination because the word "subconscious" was freighted with too much psychological baggage. Thus subception was a term to define a process by which some kind of discrimination is made when the subject isn't able to make a correct conscious discrimination. Since its coinage about 60 years ago, however, the term has not really caught on. We know of subliminal messages, though we don't usually talk about the faculty we have of perceiving them. Perhaps this is because it is too difficult to describe that faculty very accurately.
I am just getting warmed up, which is pretty fortunate, since this is the first essay of a new "page."