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I've just enjoyed The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, an enjoyable novel in which the author displays his crackling erudition on supjects as diverse as religion, history, art, mathematics, symbolism, and words. Each day this week we'll present a word and an etymology from that book, trying to avoid the words peculiar to religion. Some readers here may disagree with some of Mr. Brown's thoughts about historical Christianity, but I trust you'll nonetheless find them stimulating.

entresol - a mezzanine floor

Etymology for the day:
quote:
.. the famed Tuileries Gardens -- Paris's own version of Central Park. Most tourists mistranslated Jardin des Tuileries as relating to the thousands of tulips that bloom here, but Tuileries was actually a literal reference to something far less romantic. This park had once been an enormous, polluted excavation pit from which Parisian contrators mined clay to manufacture the city's famous red roofing tiles -- or tuiles.


And a miscellaneous bonus, regarding the Eiffel Tower:
quote:
Symbologists often remarked that France -- a country renowned for machismo, womanizing, and diminutive insecure leaders like Napoleon and Pepin the Short -- could not have chosen a more apt national emblem than a thousand-foot phallus.
 
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transmogrify - to change into a different shape or form, especially one that is fantastic or bizarre.

quote:
[Regarding Rome in 325 A.D.:] Teabing chuckled. "Constantine was a very good businessman. By fusing pagan symbols, dates and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties."

"Transmogrification," Langdon said. "The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus."

Teabing groaned. "The pre-Christian God Mithras was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Originally, Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun – Sunday."

Etymology:
quote:
Nowadays the term pagan has become almost synonymous with devil worship – a gross misconception. The word's roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. "Pagans" were literally unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship. In fact, so strong was the Church's fear of those who lived in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for "villager" – vilain came to mean a wicked soul.
 
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A reader notes, "You have made my day by elevating my long-held opinion that the Eiffel Tower is indeed a phallic symbol quite appropriate for France." Thank you!

The book uses the fascinating word "skitoma" – but I can't confirm that word in any on-line dictionary. Can anyone confirm or correct?
quote:
"Hold on," Sophie said. "[Da Vinci's] The Last Supper¹ is a painting of thirteen men."

"Is it?" Teabing arched his eyebrows. "Take a closer look. How about the one seated in the place of honor, at the right hand of the Lord?" As Sophie studied the person's face and body, a wave of astonishment rose within her. The individual had flowing red hair, delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt ... female.

Sophie could not take her eyes from the woman beside Christ. Although Sophie had seen this classic image many times, she had not once noticed this glairing discrepancy. "Everyone misses it," Teabing said. "Our preconceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes.

"It's known as skitoma, Langdon. added. "The brain does it sometimes with powerful symbols.


Etymology:
quote:
Gargoyles had always terrified Sophie as a child; that was, until her grandfather cured her of the fear by taking her atop Notre Dame Cathedral in a rainstorm. "Princess, look at these silly creatures," he had told her, pointing to the gargoyle rainspouts with their mouths gushing water. "Do you hear that funny sound in their throats?" Sophie nodded, having to smile at the burping sound of the water gurgling through their throats. "They're gargling," he grandfather told her. "Gargariser! And that's where they get the silly name 'gargoyles.'" Sophie had never again been afraid.



¹The attached is the largest scale photo I can find, but grainy. It probably pre-dates the 1954 restoration of the painting.
 
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quickly, it seems the word should be scotoma, from the Gr. root skotos, darkness.
sorry I can't gloss this -- I'm swamped with new subscriptions..
 
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Congratulations, tsuwm! How about sending a few of them our way?! Wink

As a health professional, my first thought was "scotoma" as well. In medicine this is a blind gap in the visual field. According to my medical dictionary there are several different types of "scotoma", including even a "color scotoma", meaning color blindness in a limited portion of the visual field.

I have never heard "scotoma" except as related to the above definition.

By the way, wordcrafter, if the "reader" who referred to the Eiffel Tower posts on this site, I believe I have him pegged! Roll Eyes
 
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Thanks, tsuwm! The novel states "skitoma" rather than "scotoma"; I suspect a printer's typo.

tadger; todger – brit. slang from the 1950s: penis (affectionately)
Brits, is this word in current usage?

quote:
Teabing's eyes twinkled. "Oxford Theatre Club. They still talk of my Julius Caesar. I'm certain nobody has ever performed the first scene of Act Three with more dedication."

Langdon glanced over. "I thought Caesar was dead in that scene."

Teabing smirked. "Yes, but my toga tore open when I fell, and I had to lie on stage for half an hour with my todger hanging out. Even so, I never moved a muscle. I was brilliant, I tell you." Langdon cringed. Sorry I missed it.


Etymology:

quote:
Teabing: "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by Constantine the Great. Jesus Christ was a historical figure of staggering influence, perhaps the most enigmatic and inspirational leader the world has ever seen. ... Understandably, His life was recorded by thousands of followers across the land. More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John among them. Constantine omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned."

An interesting note," Langdon added. "Anyone who chose the forbidden Gospels over Constantine's version was deemed a heretic. The word heretic derives from that moment in history. The Latin word haereticus means 'choice.' Those who 'chose' the original history of Christ were the world's first heretics."


[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Jul 24th, 2003 at 7:38.]
 
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I don't tend to speak to men about that part of their anatomy Eek , but I have encountered the word before! I think it's maybe considered a little old-fashioned...

Ros
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Congratulations, tsuwm! How about sending a few of them our way?! Wink

As a health professional, my first thought was "scotoma" as well. In medicine this is a blind gap in the visual field. According to my medical dictionary there are several different types of "scotoma", including even a "color scotoma", meaning color blindness in a limited portion of the visual field.

I have never heard "scotoma" except as related to the above definition.




here then is the only figurative use cited by OED2:

1943 Horizon Oct. 257 As with all neurotics, the confessions of Kierkegaard only contain a grain of the truth; the analytic scotoma constantly intervenes.

as to the subscriptions, yesterday I had 3200+ hits and 201 new subscriptions, mostly due to a mention in PC Magazine (on-line). (my average had been running around 230 hits/day.)
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Ros (emphasis added):
I don't tend to speak to men about that part of their anatomy Eek , but I have encountered the word before!

By implication then, I conclude that you do speak to women about that part of a man's anatomy?
 
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quote:
By implication then, I conclude that you do speak to women about that part of a man's anatomy?


Don't all women discuss such things amongst themselves? Wink Cool
 
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The last exchange is suggestive ... [pregnant pause] ... of a theme for next week. Wink
 
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effigy - a likeness of a person, especially in the form of sculpture
Langdon, feigning to be Mr. Wren, got tripped up by this word.
quote:
"Now I realize this is an intrusion, but if you could afford me a few more minutes, I have traveled a great distance to scatter ashes amongst these tombs."

The altar boy's expression turned even more skeptical. "These are not tombs."

"I'm sorry?" said Langdon. "Of course they are tombs," Teabing declared. "What are you talking about?"

The altar boy shook his head. "Tombs contain bodies. These are effigies. Stone tributes to real men. There are no bodies beneath these figures. And I imagine Mr. Wren would know that. Considering it was his family that uncoverd the fact."


Etymology, as Langdon conducts a jail seminar among prison inmates ("Culture for Convicts"):
quote:
"Historians don't generally put it quite that way, but yes, Da Vinci was a homosexual." Da Vinci was in tune with the balance between male and female. He believed that a human soul could not be enlightened unless it had both male and female elements."

"You mean like chicks with d___s?" someone called.

This elicited a hearty round of laughs. Langdon considered offering an etymological sidebar about the word hermaphrodite and its ties to Hermes and Aphrodite, but something told him it would be lost on this crowd.


(hermaphrodite - a plant or animal having both male and female reproductive organs naturally [e.g earthworm] or by anomoly [e.g., human]; generalized,something that is a combination of disparate or contradictory elements.)

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Fri Jul 25th, 2003 at 7:56.]
 
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quote:
as to the subscriptions, yesterday I had 3200+ hits and 201 new subscriptions, mostly due to a mention in PC Magazine (on-line).
Publicity is always great...and your surely deserve it, Tsuwm, because your site is just wonderful. Smile

[This message was edited by Kalleh on Fri Jul 25th, 2003 at 23:36.]
 
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oculus – a round window, usually a small one
quote:
[In the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris is] a strip of brass that segmented the sanctuary on a perfect north-south axis. It was an ancient sundial of sorts. The sun's rays, shining through the oculus on the south wall, moved farther down the line every day, indicating the passsage of time.
Anyone know the further significance of this particular line?

Etymology:
quote:
Entering the narrow, low-hanging walkways that bordered the [church's] courtyard perimeter, Langdon felt the familiar uneasiness he always felt in enclosed spaces. These walkways were called cloisters, and Langdon noted with uneasiness that these particular cloisters lived up to their Latin ties to the word claustrophobic.
 
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Baphomet – sometimes used as a synonym for "Satan" or "the Devil"

In 1307 the Church – apparently as a political power play – brought inquisition against the Knights Templar. Among the charges were worship of the idol "Baphomet". Most dictionaries define "Baphomet" only as this specific idol; but some sources have a broader definition.

The origin of this name is very much disputed. The Da Vinci Code makes quite a point of identifying Baphomet with an earlier pagan fertility god having the horned head of a goat or ram.

Etymologies (according to The Da Vinci Code):
quote:
The modern belief in a horned devil could be traced back to Baphomet and the Church's attempts to recast the horned fertility god as a symbol of evil. The Church had obviously succeeded, although not entirely. The cornucopia or "horn of plenty" was a tribute to Baphomet's fertility and dated back to Zeus being suckled by a goat whose horn broke off and magically filled with fruit. Baphomet also appeared in group photographs when some joker raised two fingers behind a friend's head it the V-symbol of horns; certainly few of the pranksters realized their mocking gesture was in fact advertising their victim's robust sperm count.

Friday the 13th: Working in concert with France's King Philippe IV, Pope Clement V devised an ingeniously planned sting operation to quash the Templars and seize their treasure. In a military maneuver worthy of the CIA, Pope Clement issued sealed orders to be opened simultaneously by his soldiers all across Europe on Friday, October 13 of 1307.

At dawn on the thirteenth, the documents were unsealed and claimed that the Knights Templar were heretics guilty of devil worship, homosexuality, defiling the cross, sodomy, and other blasphemous behavior. On that day, countless Knights were captured, tortured mercilessly, and finally burned at the stake as heretics. To this day, Friday the thirteenth was considered unlucky.
 
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Asa notes by e-mail that the word "oculus", meaning a round and usually small window, comes from Latin oculus = eye.

We still have the pending question, "What's the further significance of the strip of brass, in Saint-Sulpice church in Paris, that runs on a perfect north-south axis?"
 
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