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
– Fodor's Mexico 2006
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?
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.
– 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
viticulture – grape-growing [Latin vitis 'vine']
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
– 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
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.
Riprap holds the flow of water.
Words can do the same -- hold, guide, shape the flow of ideas. See http://www.litkicks.com/Texts/Riprap.html
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
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.
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.
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.
– 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)
Tracing the Latin palus, for marsh, I found
Indo root "pel" means "that which satisfies or fills..."
Thus links to Latin "plere (to fill), leading to "complete" et al.
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
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".
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
– Simon Courtauld, The Spectator, June 18, 2005 (ellipses omitted)
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!
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."
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.
I saw lacustrine in a translation of Garcia-Marquez, and I wonder what the Spanish word was that he used.
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:
Wordnerd, that's hugely impressive.
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,
Thank you, Royston. My spouse would probably say it's hugely anal, but I much prefer your version.