EVEN MORE WORDS
Anadiplosis (Devices V)
Paronomasia et al
Symploce et al.
Legal Words I
Legal Words II
Legal Words III
Bill Long 5/26/05
Moving Away from Points
I think I want to fly to the other extreme now--from points to circles. Then we will return to square or "box-like" things and conclude very close to spikes again. While weaponry (swords and spikes) was one of the sources of "spiky-type" words, weaponry (shields) also will supply some words for rounded things.
Something orbicular is "round, circular, discoidal," even though the OED says that it now is "rare." [There must be a difference between "rare," "obsolete," and "archaic," but I haven't yet figured it out]. From 1851: "Shields, ...some oblong and oval, and some orbicular." Speaking of oval, then, we have the word ovate, which means "egg-shaped," and obovate, on the analogy of oblanceolate in the previous essay, means "inversely ovate; egg-shaped with the broader end upmost or forward." Oh-oh. I see trouble. As I dropped my eyes down to the "special uses" of obovate in the OED, we have obovate-cuneate, obovate-lanceolate, obovate-oblong, and obovate-spatulate. We will get to a few of those terms below, but I think it emphasizes that you pretty much have freedom to make up your words and define them, just as long as you are clear and pretty decisive about what you are doing.
Returning, then, to orbiculate or spherical, we have the following quotation from 1968: "petals ovate to orbicular, pale pink or white." This suggests that at least for the scholar writing this quotation the concepts of orbicular and ovate were near-neighbors. But there are also some other terms suggesting something "roundish," and so let's learn them. Five that come to mind are reniform, claviform, cordate, scaphoid and navicular. Well, I suppose I should add peltate, ctenoid and scutate to the list. Let's see where this takes us.
A reniform leaf is kidney-shaped and usually refers to leaves. Reniform may also refer to insects as shown in this 1834 quotation: "The last joint of the antennae is either almost globular or reniform." An 1847 description has "leaves reniform-cordate, glabrous." Glabrous means "smooth," and so is not a word we need to consider as we talk about shapes. But reniform is connected to cordate, which means "heart-shaped; resembling in form a longitudinal section of a heart, i.e., with outline generally rounded, but pointed at one end and having an indentation at the other." Thus, something reniform is almost perfectly rounded, though not fully orbicular, while something cordate may be pointed at one end. A claviform object is something "club-shaped." "The foot..is claviform when it is thicker at its extremity than at its base." Something claviform has the thicker end on the dorsal part of the club.
Still in the Round
We are not yet finished with various round shapes. Scaphoid is a word appearing in zoology and anatomy to mean "shaped like a boat" (from the Greek word for boat). The scaphoid bone, also known as the scaphoid fossa (fossa is a "trench" or "ditch"), is in the ear. Gray's Anatomy speaks of a "small, oval, shallow depression, the scaphoid fossa." Scaphoid is precisely the kind of word I would love to separate out of its anatomical context and let it set sail on the sea of general human conversation. Instead of saying "oblong" or "elliptical," why not pepper our conversation with a scaphoid or a navicular? Speaking of navicular, which also means "boat-shaped" and is associated primarily with a bone in the heel, why not try to bring it into common speech? We might talk about the navicular shape of a restaurant, or a cut in a piece of wood, or a depression in the earth. "In keeping with the theological theme of the main part of the sanctuary being the nave, the church was navicular in shape." In any case, both are good words to know.
Let's finish with a whirlwind tour of some of the other terms. Though we will proably not have a "complete" list, we will have made a very good start on the "shape-words." Something deltoid is triangularly-shaped, while something cuneate is wedge-shaped. Recall that cuneiform writing is "wedge-shaped" writing from ancient Babylonia, the wedge being the shape of the stylus with which one wrote. Something pandurate is fiddle-shaped, while a sagittate object is "arrow-shaped." The 1760 attestation is helpful: "Sagittate, Arrow-shaped; when they [sc. leaves] are triangular, hollowed at the Base, and furnished with Angles at the lower Part." Something that is pinnate is like a feather, which means that it has similar parts arranged on opposite sides of an axis. A papillate object is one that has papillae, obviously. The Latin word papilla means "the nipple, teat, dug" or can mean also a "nipple-like protruberance." Thus the OED can say that in the 15th century it had the meaning of "nipple," while by 1690 it meant "small protruberance." Something that is cucullate is "hood-shaped," like the flowers that fold in over themselves.
Back to more rounded objects, a peltate form is shield-shaped, but it has "the petiole joined to the under-surface of the blade at or near the middle (instead of at the base or end." Actually, peltate can be used synonymously with cordate in the following quotation from 1830: "Herbs, with peltate or cordate fleshy leaves." But once you introduce peltate, you have to mention scutiform. Derived from the Latin, it means "shield-shaped."
I would be remiss if I ended, however, without mentioning pectinate and ctenoid. The verbs pecto and pectino mean "to comb" the hair. Therefore, something that is pectinate has "narrow closely-set projections or divisions like the teeth of a comb." Ctenoid is the Greek word meaning "resembling a comb" or "having marginal projections like the teeth of a comb." Whereas most of the references I have seen to pectinate have to do with leaves, ctenoid is normally applied to the scales and teeth of certain fish.
And then there is serrate, a word I have known for years, and laciniate, a word I just learned. The latter means "cut into deep and narrow irregular segments; jagged, slashed." I think, however, that the laciniate will never made it out of its scientific significance. Can you imagine a movie called "Laciniate Edge"? Enough for now.
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long