Minding Some "P's"
Still More "P's"
Lord of the Flies I
Lord of the Flies II
Caponiere to Yapp
Some "F" Words I
Some "F" Words II
What the "H" I
H Words VII
H Words VIII
H Words IX
H Words X
Sublime To.. II
Saturday Words I
Saturday Words II
Saturday Words III
2009 Kids Bee I
2009 Kids Bee II
2009 Kids Bee III
2009 Kids Bee IV
From the Sublime II
Bill Long 12/10/08
Finishing Up on Rabelais..and Journeying
Let's continue with a select exposition of the Rabelais quotation from the previous essay. Here is the sentence:
"At certain intervals we invisitate the lupanars, and in venerean ecstasy we inculcate our veretres into the penitissim recesses of the pudenda of these amicabilissime meretricules."
A "lupanar" is a "brothel" and is listed in the OED. "Venerean" ultimately comes from "Venus," the goddess of love. We have the phrase "veneral disease" in English, which suggests, literally, a "love disease," though I don't suppose that the name softens the pain at all. So what do they do in their love-making "ecstasies" in the brothels? They "inculcate veretres.." The word inculcate literally means to "stamp in with the heel," because the Latin calx, calcis means "heel." Why isnt' the verb "incalcate," then? In any case, the first meaning of the term in English emphasizes the forcing of a thing on the mind: "To endeavor to force (a thing) into or impress (it) on the mind of another by emphatic admonition or by persistent repetition." Yet, Rabelais would have his university students inculcate their veretres... There is no English cognate for veretres, and the Latin word veretrum means "penis."
We have to pause a bit on this. Why doesn't the word appear as veretrus, a masculine, rather than veretrum (neuter)? Even though there is a difference between the masculine gender and something specifically "male," this word seems to be a dead giveaway, so to speak. Well, the Century informs us that the word veretillum is the "diminutive" of veretrum. Thus, it must mean "little penis," unless I am mistaken. But a Veretillum is "the typical genus of Veretillidae," the most popular exemplar of which is Veretillum cynomorium. What is a Veretillum cynomorium? Here is a picture. The Century gives this definition of veretilliform:
"Rod-like (yep, that seems to fit); veretilleous: specifically noting ordinary holothurians having a long soft sub-cylindrical body covered througout with tentaculiform suckers."
Here is another picture, with a French-language description. The holothurians are a class of various echinoderms, which includes the sea cucumber. So, sea cucumber, rod-like, veretrum, veretillum. I hope you get the picture by now. By the way, the Icelandic word for penis is flanni. I didn't have to go to the Icelandic Phallological Museum to discover that--so now you can say the word in two languages other than English. Hundreds more to go...but you have to start somewhere.
I guess we need to finish the exposition of the sentence. Thus, the author is saying that they "inculcate" (which means to drive firmly) their "venetres" (no comment needed) into the penitissim (innermost--see previous essay) recesses of the pudenda (no comment needed) of the "most friendly" meretricules. Only the last word calls for comment. A meretrix is a harlot; the diminutive is a meretricula. We have several words in English, the most prominent of which is meretricious, derived from the Latin stem. Meretricious, in its more modern meaning, means "alluring by false show; showily and superficially attractive but having in reality no value or integrity." In the words of Dustin Hoffman, playing "Raymond" in Rainman, it is when the lady is "sparkly."
Meandering on Meretricious
I will never forget my first year in law school where we were studying contracts law. One of the cases concerned the actor Lee Marvin (Marvin v. Marvin) and had to do with whether his "girlfriend" had rights to some of his dough, as I recall, when they split up. I believe the court used the word meretricious to try to characterize the relationship. But, to be sure, the word meretricious was a legal term and not simply a term of derogation. Its use in law goes way back, and is captured in Blackstone's Commentaries: "It is a meretricious, and not a matrimonial, union." I suppose the point of "law" in the Marvin case was that a contract between unmarried persons is invalid "if sexual acts form an inseparable part of the consideration for the agreement."
I remember thinking when I was taking this class as a 44 year-old...what in the heck could these judges be smoking to come up with a statement like that? How can you determine if sex is an "inseparable part of the consideration" of the agreement? Don't you just assume that it is? How do you test it? Check it out? Have a legal eagle spy? Rely on what people said? Why should that even be a question important to law? I remember thinking that day in 1996 that I was entering into a field of endeavor (law) that might be so removed from the reality of lived life that I might as well be studying mythology or fantasy literature. Well, on second thought, at least mythology teaches deep truths about life.
And, I would hasten to add, many things in my law school education gave me such a "Twilight Zone"-type of feeling that I almost couldn't suppress a laugh or a stare of disbelief. For example, I recall in my second year "ethics" class, which was dubbed "Professional Responsibility," that there were several cases considering the grave question of whether lawyers could advertise. We went into some detail about whether and in what situations one could hand out a business card. I commented to myself: "What does law think it is? Of course people will advertise and hand out their cards.." Naturally, there was a history that went into both the "meretricious" issue and the advertising issue, but the professors weren't very good at laying out how history shaped the current debate and why there really was any debate at all. All I knew is that I lived then in the 1990s, with its "win-win" philosophy, and this philosophy suggested that you had to do all you could in order to get your message out...
Then they "cauponizate" in the "meritory" taverns. The first word suggests either dealing with or like a tavern-keeper; mixing and adulterating for gain. The OED has cauponize, cauponate and cauponation, all derived from the Latin cauponari, which means to "traffic or trade in." We see the word "merit" or "worthy" in the word "meritory," and nothing further is needed. If they have a "paucity" (lack) of "pecune" (money) in their "marsupies," then they do other things. But the word "marsupies," from which we get the word marsupial, means "having a pouch." Thus, we get the picture of what he is saying, even though it would be necessary to do some more work really to do justice to the Latin words/phrases here.
Back to the "List"
I could go further into this Rabelais quotation, but I think I will close with one word that got me doing some further thinking: klendusity. It is a relatively new word (only invented in 1940) to suggest "the resistance of a plant to disease, through the presence of some characteristic that inhibits infection." The Greek word kleis means "bar, bolt" and endusis means "bringing in," so klendusity is a bar or obstacle to bringing something in. From 1940: "The continued misuse of such words as immunity, resistance, tolerance and klendusity (with resistance as a catch-all) tends definitely to confuse readers." But how can the first attestation have a sentence that talks about the continued misuse of the word? Don't understand. By 1950, however, klendusity was facing a rough time: "On this side of the Atlantic 'klendusity' and 'suscept' were each thrown out without a hearing, because they are the very opposite of comfortable words." The word seems to be almost obsolete today, with only 1000 or so Google references to it.
Yet I suggest not only that we keep the word, but that we expand its field of meaning. Why limit it simply to an ability of a plant to ward off disease? Why can't we use it more figuratively to describe an ability or capacity, in people especially, to ward off various kinds of things? Klendusity, then, could be a characteristic that we want to cultivate or encourage in the young (as well as the rest of us). By it we would mean the ability to ward off or repel things that are a threat to our identity and rhythms. So many "threats" are out there; so many things challenge our stability or ability to get anything done in life. An ability to develop klendusity, then, is the key to happy/successful living.
This is longer than I thought it would be, but I hope it has been informative. Even better, it has kept me out of trouble for yet another few hours...