This week we'll survey terms that refer to the various waters of the world. We'll of course pass over the many familiar terms, such as sea, lake, river, bay, inlet, etc. The less familiar terms are sometimes technical ones and sometimes literary ones, but all are available for your use.
lacustrine – relating to lakes
When he first laid eyes on Tenochtitlán [Mexico City] in the early 16th century, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was dazzled by the glistening lacustrine metropolis, which reminded him of Venice. – Fodor's Mexico 2006
January 24, 2006, 00:22
I've read about and seen old maps of Tenochtitlan as it was at the time of the Spanish conquest. The striking feature is indeed its watery nature. I don't recall Mexico City being referred to as the Venice of Central America, so what happened to the lakes and canals?
January 24, 2006, 06:44
littoral – relating to the shore of non-flowing waters such as lakes, oceans, etc. [in more specific use, relating to the area which, as tides rise and fall, is sometimes underwater and sometimes exposed.] Also used as a noun.
"Littoral" can be used literally, but the figurative use (last quote) is interesting too.
Sanibel and Captiva are part of the hundred littoral islands basking in the sun off the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. – Patricia Schultz, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
These viticultural regions all lie within the littoral Mediterranean climate zone of Algeria with its mild winters and hot, dry, and sunny summers. – Jancis Robinson The Oxford Companion to Wine
Newt, who hadn't spent years on the littoral of business without picking up a thing or two. – Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
Littoral refers to the shores of non-flowing waters. What of flowing waters?
riparian – relating to riverbanks (although often mis-used to include littoral) riverine – relating to riverbanks
The proposed partnership is a win-win solution for the city to create and manage a riparian green space along the Rappahannock and Rapidan riverbanks – Kurt A. Baden, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia), Jan. 23, 2006
Second-home sales have boomed so much that in many popular rustric retreats … vacation homes by the thousands line the desirable riparian acreage, with land parcels growing scarce. – Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
Bonus words: riprap – (illustration) loose stone used to stabilize a riverbank, or for like purposes
If riprap is enclosed in a mesh cage, for modular use, it is called gabion (illustration), and can also be used for dry purposes, such as retaining walls (illustation). This use of "gabion" has not yet entered the dictionaries.
Our words leave the shore and go out to sea. We tell the tale of the whale in the Thames, the pelagic cetacean who moved from sea to river and attracted riverine attention.
pelagic – relating to open ocean Bonus word: cetacean – pertaining to whales
Prince of whales: London's pride is to be a haven for immigrants and asylum-seekers Our visitor played its part as if to the cetacean drama of Moby Dick born. It dived, spouted and flipped its tail. The Water Board was prompt to boast that its Thames was now clean enough to attract even great pelagic creatures from the wild waters. And Londoners did not reach for their harpoons or sushi or fishy fingers. They showed the nobler London sentiment of kindness to strangers. – Philip Howard, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25, 2006, expanding item in London Times four days earlier. I combine excerpts from both versions.
Can you imagine Londoners "reaching for their harpoons," which they doubtless had handy?
January 26, 2006, 11:11
It dived, spouted and flipped its tail.
Alas, it was not until the post-mortem was carried out that they discovered that "it" was a "she".
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
January 27, 2006, 06:13
Two obscure ones today.
palustrine – relating to swamps and marshes paludal – 1. relating to swamps and marshes; palustrine. 2. malarial Each from Latin palus marsh.
Indeed one reads of some old poets who were not able to produce a mere hundred lines in a day. Under the "free-verse" system, some of the Palustrine (or Marshy) School have been known to produce as many as three thousand lines in a day … – Punch, November 7, 1917
And they had good reason to fear that in warm weather the atmosphere might be charged with dangerous miasma, of the kind that engenders paludal fevers. – Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island (Jordan Stump, translator)
Indo root "pel" means "that which satisfies or fills..."
Thus links to Latin "plere (to fill), leading to "complete" et al.
January 28, 2006, 09:09
Various terms measure ocean depths. Sources conflict, and sometimes a source even contradicts itself (example here: 3,000 or 4,000?), but I've tried to put it together.
neritic or sublittoral – of ocean depths to about 200 meters. [probably named for a son of Nereus, hence an eponym.] bathyal – of ocean depths below neritic, to 4,000 meters. abysmal – of ocean depths below bathyal. (Some will instead call the deepest part of this, below 6,000 meters, hadal as in "Hades".)
Neritic depths are chiefly influenced by tides and waves, bethyal depths by currents
Extras: continental slope – the seabed where it gradually descends from continental shore. (A steeper descent typically begins at 200 meters depth. Compare "neritic".) benthic; benthonic – of the deepest part (however deep it may be) of an ocean or lake Some sources list bathypelagic as "relating to a depth of about 600 to 3,000 meters".
January 29, 2006, 08:20
estuarial – relating to an estuary, the area near the mouth of a river where river flow mixes with tidal flow, fresh water with salt water Bonus word: kelt – (per OED) a salmon, etc. in bad condition after spawning, before returning to the sea
Salmo salar, the Atlantic salmon, having gone to sea, returns to the river of its birth to spawn. On the way it may fall prey to estuarial nets. Once in the river it may have to leap up and over waterfalls ('salar' means the leaper) … until, having spawned, it dies in the river or returns to the sea. In this final phase of its life it is known as a kelt. – Simon Courtauld, The Spectator, June 18, 2005 (ellipses omitted)
Question for our readers: In preparing this theme I learned that limnology is the study of bodies of fresh water, including their biology and geology. But I could not find no such -ology word for that study of bodies of salt water. (For example, "marine biology" is limited to biology and is not a single word.) Can anyone provide the term?
January 29, 2006, 10:15
In preparing this theme I learned that limnology is the study of bodies of fresh water....but I could find no such -ology word for that study of bodies of salt water.
Perhaps there isn't an -ology word for that purpose. Since -logy,as in "archaeology" and -graphy, as in "geography" both, in a similar fashion, seem to denote scientific study, then perhaps the word that suits is oceanography. Of course, English being the amazing language that it is, there is always a word like graphology to make things even more interesting!
January 29, 2006, 11:06
Perhaps we can lay the difficulty on the Greeks. "Limnos" means pool, and lends itself to a Greek suffix. But my ancestors seemed to have lacked the equivalent of the modern "lagoon," which entails a saline body of water.
Other salt-specific terms are equally suffix-inhospitable, viz. estuary and "brackish sea."
January 30, 2006, 04:44
Originally posted by wordcrafter: And they had good reason to fear that in warm weather the atmosphere might be charged with dangerous miasma, of the kind that engenders paludal fevers. – Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island (Jordan Stump, translator)[/LIST]
I wonder if Monsieur Verne actually used whatever the French word is for paludal or if his translator was simply keen to show off.
I've often wondered if translation is something done by people not quite up to writing their own stuff. I've certainly encountered translated books - not always fiction - which are simply unreadable.
January 30, 2006, 06:18
I saw lacustrine in a translation of Garcia-Marquez, and I wonder what the Spanish word was that he used.
January 30, 2006, 11:26
[Quoting] "And they had good reason to fear that in warm weather the atmosphere might be charged with dangerous miasma, of the kind that engenders paludal fevers." I wonder if Monsieur Verne actually used whatever the French word is for paludal or if his translator was simply keen to show off.
It took some work to find, and the conclusion is that Verne did indeed use the French form of the same word. Project Guttenberg's version in the original French, a large file, has this sentence near the end of Chapter XXI:
Il était même à craindre que l'air ne s'y chargeât, pendant les chaleurs, de ces miasmes qui engendrent les fièvres paludéennes.
January 31, 2006, 08:50
Wordnerd, that's hugely impressive.
February 01, 2006, 07:12
Follow-up: We'd noted that limnology is the scientific study of bodies of fresh water, and we'd asked for a like term for salt-water bodies. Thanks to readers' input, I can now tell you that according to OED on-line, oceanography has that meaning. The word oceanology used to have that meaning too, but now is more used to mean "the branch of technology and economics concerned with human use of the ocean."This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
February 01, 2006, 08:12
Thank you, Royston. My spouse would probably say it's hugely anal, but I much prefer your version.