27 December 2005

Pardon my Latin


Yesterday at my favorite used bookstore, this little dictionary from 1900 was too irresistible to return to the shelf; despite the rather high price of $2(!), I bought it. Exitus acta probat*. So then, allow me to put my new acquisition to good use.

I have written about the slug genus Pallifera, native to the U.S. Their name comes from pallium (=cloak; here referring to the mantle) and fero (=to bear) to mean "mantle bearer", not a very distinctive name, because all slugs have a mantle. What about the name of the clausiliid land snail Idyla bicristata of Turkey and Greece? I don't know what Idyla means, but bicristata translates as "two-crested", in reference to the 2 keels on the back of the body whorl of the shell. This too isn't very distinctive, because many clausiliids from where it comes have 2 keels. Vertigo, the genus name of cute little snails, means "turning around"; likewise, quite generic. Quid faciendum?

But, here is something a bit more exciting: Anguispira is a combination of anguis (=snake) and spira (=spire, coil), presumably implying that the shell is coiled like a snake. This one is better: the name rotifer (phylum Rotifera) derives from rota (=wheel) and, once again, fero, to mean "wheel bearer". They were given this curious name, because the early microscopists thought that the ciliated disks surrounding these animals' mouths were turning wheels.

Well, that's it for today. Nec scire fas est emnia‡.

Before I forget, the dictionary indeed fits into the pocket of my vest.


*The result justifies the deed.
†What is to be done?
‡We are not allowed to know all things.


Duane said...

What great find! I hope the cost will not prevent you from putting food on your table. About 30 years ago, I was given a Latin dictionary as a Christmas present. I believe it cost, at that time, more than two orders of magnitude more than your wonderful new reference tool. Amazon has a more recent edition listed at $232.70 down from their list price of $295.00. What a bargain! Anyway, I am about as far from knowing anything about Latin as one can get and still have a need to look up a word every few years. Over these years, considering how many words I have looked up in my dictionary, I now have the mean cost per-word referenced down to about what you paid for your whole dictionary. And I'll bet the cost of your dictionary that every word I have referenced in mine is in yours. By the way, mine will not fit in any vest pocket.


Duane, you got me excited there for a moment, but abebooks.com has 3 copies of Hill's vest-pocket Latin dictionary, the 1900 edition, on sale starting at $6.75.

Oh well, I wasn't thinking of selling mine anyway.

the Robot Vegetable said...

Books will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no books.

(will apologies to the Furry Freak Brothers)

pascal said...

Is the 'gee' sound in Anguispira hard as in gush, or soft as in geronimo?


I pronounce Anguispira, & have always heard it pronounced with a hard g as Angooeey-spira.