There be dragons!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Increasing the Ol' Lexicon

fantods : restlessness; the willies; the fidgets. Used by Huck Finn in Mark Twain's book they have the same connotation as "boojums" or skittishness at some supernatural force.

But in a little while I see a pale streak over the treetops, and knowed the day was coming. So I took my gun and slipped off towards where I had run across that camp fire, stopping every minute or two to listen. But I hadn't no luck somehow; I couldn't seem to find the place. But by and by, sure enough, I catched a glimpse of fire away through the trees. I went for it, cautious and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most give me the fantods.

bezoars : A bezoar or enterolith is a sort of calculus or concretion, a stone found in the intestines of mostly ruminant animals, but occurring among others including humans. Though used by my dad in the context of "dreaded bezoars" it meant any sort of physical malady. (from reference.com)

Bezoars were sought because they were believed to have the power of a universal antidote against any poison. It was believed that a drinking glass which contained a bezoar would neutralize any poison poured into it. The word "bezoar" comes from the Persian pâdzahr (پادزهر), which literally means "protection from poison." In fact, some types of trichobezoar are apparently able to precipitate or bind arsenic compounds (long used as poison) from a solution. In 1575, the surgeon Ambroise Paré described an experiment to test the properties of the Bezoar Stone. At the time, the Bezoar stone was deemed to be able to cure the effects of any poison, but Paré believed this was impossible. It happened that a cook at Paré's court was caught stealing fine silver cutlery. In his shame, the cook agreed to be poisoned. He then used the Bezoar stone to no great avail as he died in agony seven hours later. Paré had proved that the Bezoar stone could not cure all poisons as was commonly believed at the time.

fomes : any agent, as clothing or bedding, that is capable of absorbing and transmitting the infecting organism of a disease. Though as used by Saint Thomas they normally are something that foments rebellion in the body, temptations, particularly those to lust.

So, then, this very inclination of sensuality which is called the "fomes," in other animals has simply the nature of a law (yet only in so far as a law may be said to be in such things), by reason of a direct inclination. But in man, it has not the nature of law in this way, rather is it a deviation from the law of reason.

hypos : an excessive preoccupation with one's health, usually focusing on some particular symptom, as cardiac or gastric problems. Though, Melville uses it to mean something like "excessive worry about the situation in general".

From Moby Dick:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me. There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf.

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