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I’ve enjoyed The Physician by Noah Gordon. The protagonist, orphaned as a young boy in the year 1021, first works with an itinerant sideshow medicine man and then travels to Persia to study Muslim medicine. The book is thick with old-style words to set the mood, and I’ll doubtless mine it for future quotes. But for now, let’s give it its own theme: “Words from The Physician”. (Ellipses will be omitted.)

coracle – an ancient type of boat, small, light, rounded and maneuverable, made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, and used with a paddle
[from Welsh. Used by the ancient Britons, and still used in Wales and Ireland.]
    . . .‘Have you lived in England long? You speak our language so well.’
    . . .‘I was born in this house. In 70 A.D., five young Jewish prisoners of war were transported from Jerusalem to Rome by Titus following the destruction of the Great Temple. I am descended from one of these. He won his freedom by enlisting in the Second Roman Legion, with which he came to this island when its inhabitants were little dark coracle men, the black Silures who were the first to call themselves Britons. Has your own family been English that long?
I can’t find much about “the black Silures”. Does anyone have information?
 
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Wikipedia (as so often) has an article on the Silures. As to the 'black' epithet, like most Celts, they would usually have had curly black hair and a dark complexion.


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.
 
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metheglin – a drink of fermented honey and water (also called ‘mead’), esp. when spiced or medicated

The traveling medicine-man peddles a potion to his audiences. He calls it the Universal Specific.
    The barber-surgeon told them the Universal Specific was an Eastern physick, made by infusing the ground dried flower of a plant called Vitalia which was found only in the deserts of far-off Assyria. Yet when they ran low on the Specific, Rob helped to mix up a new batch and he saw that the physick was mostly everyday liquor. Any variety would have served, but Barber said he always tried to find metheglin, a mixture of fermented honey and water. ‘It’s a Welsh invention, chappy, one of the few things they’ve given us. Named from meddyg, their word for physician, and llyn, meaning strong liquor. It numbs the tongue and warms the soul.’
Bonus words:
infuse
1. to pervade; fill 2. to instill (a quality) into 3. to soak (tea, herbs, etc.) to extract the taste or heal qualities
physic; physick – a medicine or drug, especially a cathartic (for constipation) (also, the art of medicine)

As a further example, the epitaph of Doctor Isaac Letsome:
    When people's ill, they come to I;
    I physics, bleeds, and sweats 'em.
    Sometimes they live, sometimes they die.
    What's that to I? I. Letsome.
 
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Do you have mead in the USA? It's common enough here is farm shops and similar places - although your average pub wouldn't stock it. It's a nice drink - providing it's not been made too sweet.


Richard English
 
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mead

Yes, we have mead and electricity here in the former colonies. I once met a couple at a going away party who ran a successful meadery (Rabbit's Foot, IIRC).

their word for physician

Welsh meddyg (pronounced /'mɛðɪg/) is 'medicinal' < Latin medicus.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Yes, we have mead and electricity here in the former colonies

Electricity I knew about (although with that strange preference for electrical pressures of only 50% of what is considered best in most of the non-North American world). But mead I wasn't sure about. Let's face it, when I first visited the USA in 1979 there wasn't even any proper beer brewed.


Richard English
 
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Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco (link) have been brewing a decent beer for quite a while now. In the late '70s, the New Albion Brewing Company (link) in Sonoma County was brewing some of the first micro-brews I ever got to taste. I didn't have an English real ale until 1985 in Cornwall.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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This is quite true - and it is the reason why I stopped in San Francisco on my first RTW trip! I agree that the Anchor Brewery was an exception and it was saved because Fritz Maytag - a washing-machine millionaire - bought it just as it was on the point of closing.

The craft beer revival in the USA didn't start until the late 1970s when a returning US serviceman, who had drunk good beer in Scotland, started the first craft brewery in New York. It failed but it was the start of the beer-revival in the USA and it means that it is now possible to get some very fine beer. Unfortunately, because craft beers only account for around 5% of US beer production, bars with good beer are still the exception - go into any high-street bar in the USA and you'll usually only have the choice of five different kinds of chemical fizz.

It would have been more accurate for me to have said that when I visited the USA in 1979 there was ALMOST no proper beer brewed.


Richard English
 
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haysel – haymaking season.
swath1. a strip (from the specific sense: a mowing-path the width of a scythe-stroke, or the cut grass or grain in such a path)
    The village wasn’t large enough to support a tavern, but haysel was in progress and when he stopped at a meadow in which four men wielded scythes, the cutter in the swath closest to the road ceased his rhythmic swinging long enough to tell him how to reach Edgar Thorpe’s house.
Idiom: to cut a swath – to create a great stir, impression, or display
 
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hawk (as a verb, to hawk) – to clear the throat noisily (to hawk up – to bring (phlegm) up from the throat)

Rob’s travel to Persia takes him through desert, and he takes his night’s sleep during a storm:
    The wind carried sand and salt that burned his skin like flakes of hot ass. Thee air became even heavier and more oppressive. He dreamed. Then he awoke, hawking and spitting drily. There was sand and salt in his mouth and ears.
A reader’s report: A reader tells me of another use of our recent word Tupperware: “Did you know that Glock pistols and other "plastic guns" (with frames of "space age" polymer rather than metal) are sometimes referred to by traditionalists as ‘combat Tupperware’?” Thanks, Stu!
 
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aquiline – eagle-like (usually referring to a nose like an eagle’s beak)
shagreen – an Eastern untanned leather with many small round protuberances, especially dyed green (also, shark-skin)

Meeting the local king, in the East:
    The man was dressed in a plain red calico coat quilted with cotton, rough hose, shagreen shoes, and a carelessly wound turban. He was perhaps forty years old, with a strong build, erect bearing, short dark beard, aquiline beak of a nose, and a killer’s light still in his eyes as he watched his beaters pulling the dead panther.
Extra notes:
Webster tells us more about shagreen: “Used for covering small cases and boxes. The characteristic surface is produced by pressing small seeds into it hair side when moist, drying; then afterward, when dry, scraping off the roughness left between them, and then soaking to make the portions compressed or indented by the seeds to swell up into relief.” (slightly edited)

As I understand it, an aquiline nose is a strong and noble one. But apparently it used to mean “an hooked or Aquiline nose” (1646). Does the following suggest how the word might have gotten conflicting meanings?
    Italian scientists have made a reconstruction of the face of the poet Dante and have found some surprises, particularly about the supposed shape of his famous aquiline nose. It was pudgy rather than pointy and crooked rather than straight, almost as if he had been punched. Popular conceptions of the face have always been dictated by artists’ renditions. [But] The team of scientists based their work on calculations made on Dante’s skull made in 1921, the only time it has been removed from its crypt.
    – Reuters, Jan. 11, 2007 (text and picture)
 
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rood – a crucifix symbolizing the cross on which Jesus died (esp. a large one in a medieval church, above the rood screen or rood beam)
[The term is also used as an old unit of measure.]
    Rob had thought Aire’s Cross was so named because it marked a ford on the River Aire, but the priest said the hamlet was called after a great rood of polished oak within the church.
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
haysel – haymaking season.
swath1. a strip (from the specific sense: a mowing-path the width of a scythe-stroke,


This brings back vivid memories...

During haymaking season ( haysel, you say..) my father would cut a swath in our hay field and we would spread out a cloth in the cut and the family would have a lovely little birthday picnic for my brother whose birthday came during the hay season. Smile Smile
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
Electricity I knew about (although with that strange preference for electrical pressures of only 50% of what is considered best in most of the non-North American world).


You're probably referring to our use of 110 volts for household use. Two comments...

1. Most household appliances and lighting here are 110 volts. This means that you ( you meaning well-intentioned amateur handymen/women) can take off the plate on the bottom (the one that says "Danger. Shock hazard. No user-servicable parts inside.") and stick the screwdriver inside and still survive.

2. Most heating circuits here are 220 volts. We don't pick at those. Eek
 
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defile – a steep-sided narrow gorge or passage (originally one requiring troops to march in single file)

Travelling by caravan:
    The giant serpent of travelers soon would to the pass that led through the high mountains. On the other side of the great defile were foothills that gradually turned into rolling land. Next day they traveled due south and it became clear that the Balkan Gate separated two unique climes, of the air was softer this side of the pass.
 
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Interestingly, the verb defile, "to make filthy", has a totally different meaning and etymology. It comes from the Old French defouler "to trample down, violate".


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.
 
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