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 Yapp to Caponiere
Bill Long 12/1/08
Today, a Monday morning in early December, is a day to "clean up" words that are in the Moleskine notebook my daughter bought me for a Christmas present last year. I carry it around wherever I go, making notes of things learned, topics to explore, words I haven't run into, etc. Take my wallet, my checkbook, but don't take my Moleskine!
1. I think I ran into caponiere, which the OED spells also as caponniere, when I was hung upon "capable" (note below). Yet, I wanted to pause on this element of medieval castle or fort defense. It derives it's name from the French capon-cote, a house for keeping chickens or capons. And, as you see by looking at this picture (the caponiere is windowed section at the far end of the picture), the caponiere looks like a chicken coop, doesn't it? Well, a caponiere can mean three things--the picture is of "one of a series of bomb-proof arched structures for receiving cannon which fire through embrasures pierced in the front or mask-wall of the casemates..." (Century). It can also be a "covered passageway across the ditch of a fortified place, for the purpose either of sheltering communication with outworks or affording a flanking fire to the ditch in which it stands" (OED). That is enough on caponiere for today...
2. Well, let's go to the other end of the words--and say a word about yapp. Be sure to distinguish it from yap, a slang or derogatory word referring to one's mouth or to a fool. But when you put another "p" on the end of the word, a different world opens. I ran into yapp when I wa seraching online for a copy of a late 16th century edition of Paradin's Devises heroiques. One note talked about a copy available in "yapp binding." Well, it is "a style of bookbinding in limp leather with overlapping edges or flaps." Here is a picture of a book with yapp binding. I had seen all kinds of books, mostly Bibles, over the years, with this kind of binding, but I never knew it had a name. So it does, named after Mr. Yapp of London--the 19th century bookbinder.
3. Speaking of techniques for making things either esthetically pleasing or long-lasting, I ran into phulkari for the first time today, and thought I would point it out to you. Again, it is something you see all the time, though probably without knowing the word for it. It is a Punjabi style of flower-patterned embroidery. The word is Hindi for "flower work." As with many words, it can refer either to the style or the cloth itself. Here is a page on phulkaris and baghs (you see, words often give you two gifts--themselves and a neighbor.)*
[* Oh, have you ever heard of the cute Latinism: Qui cantat, bis orat--"the one who sings, prays twice"? I think I will have to develop a corresponding one relating to words. One who masters one word is twice blessed, for the word invariably brings a neighbor in tow. Another one of these "bis" Latinisms is bis vivit qui bene vivit--"the one lives twice who lives well. Then there is bis dat qui cito dat--"He gives twice who gives quickly." I better quit before I have completely lost the thread of this essay...].
It just makes me want to go into a fabric store and have someone take me by the hand and rub it over various kinds of fabrics all day...By the way, this article differentiates a phulkari and bagh in that the former are shawls or odini for everday use while baghs are garments that cover the entire body and made for special or ceremonial occasions. Twice blessed indeed.
4. Oops. My eye made the "mistake" of running down the page of the OED, and I had to stop for a second on phutphuti, an echoic word to describe "a motorized vehicle with a two-stroke engine, a moped." Doesn't this sound so "British Indian"? The vehicle, of course, makes a little "put-put" sound or, in this case, a "phut-phut" sound. So, make up a word. This ought to embolden us to invent terms that we need to get across the meaning that we desire. Language, like grace and shit, happens.
5. I think I should retreat to capable for a moment, because I want to pause on its root. Something or someone capable has capacity. The Latin behind it is from the simple verb capere, meaning "to take hold of, seize, hold." Thus, the original meaning of the word in English was "able to hold or contain" or "sufficiently capacious for." The word was followed by "of." "The place chosen was the cathedral church, capable of 400 persons." Or, from the 17th century: "Their Canoes..are..capable of three naked men." Hm. I wonder if they were clothed--would that wreck everything? Thomas Hobbes, in his 1675 translation of Homer's Odyssey, had: "The seat was large and capable of two." Thus, when we say, "I am capable of doing X or Y," we are, strictly speaking, being redundant and repeating ourselves. The word took on a figurative meaning--"able to take in with the mind or senses," as is evident in Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity (1594): "Capable we are of God, both by understanding and will." Yet even in that same document, Hooker expanded the meaning of the word to include "having the needful power or fitness for something." Thus, the meaning took on its present-day signification, as reflected in this 1863 quotation: "Animals must be capable of forming general thoughts." Shakespeare used the term in the sense of "susceptible to, impressible, receptive."
"His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones/ Would make them capable" (Hamlet III.iv).
Or, from Winter's Tale, IV.3:
"If thou be'st capable of things serious, thou must know the king is full of grief."
5. Well, while on a word with deep Latin roots/significance, I had to pause on inure. There are two meanings of the Latin verb inurere. On the one hand it means "in" and "ure" or "to put into use." Thus, the word inure in English has something to do with being placed into use or, as more usually understood, to "bring a person by use, habit, or continual exercise to a certain condition or state of mind..." "The poor, inured to drudgery and distress, were none too welcoming of his promises of a Golden Age." The word inure has an eternal significance now in American law since it was taken up by the authors of the Internal Revenue Code. To be tax-exempt under sec. 501(c)(3) of the Code, the net earnings of the organization may not "inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual." This meaning of inure is "to operate; to have or take effect." Our meaning is that the earnings can't work or take effect to the benefit of a private person. Literally, they can't be "placed in use" to private benefit...
But inurere also means, in Latin, "to burn," and so we have the rare words inustion and inust that have to do with burning, branding or fire and not with "use." Inustion means "cauterization." From 1647: "That memory is seated in the Mundane spirit of man, by a strong impression, or inustion of any phantasme..upon that spirit." Actually, I am looking for an alternative word for emblazon, whcih I find myself using too much. Something is "emblazoned" on our hearts, etc. etc. I picked up the word long ago from reading Funk's "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" in Reader's Digest. But inustion/inust may need to be resurrected for our needs. Thus, something may inure upon my heart a memory, a feeling, a hope. From 1646: "He himselfe impresses or inures the Mark of the Beast, the Devills Flesh-brand, upon one or other part of the body." Emblazon, brand, inure. This threefold cord won't quickly be broken.
Out of space, with a few more words to go...