Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Meaning: I'm sure we all know what it means, but if you want a titbit to start with, placenta originally meant cheesecake. No, really: placenta is from the Latin and Greek for 'flat cake', and Wikipedia mentions Cato's recipe for placenta, a cheesecake made for religious purposes.  I'm considering abandoning Artotyrism for a religion where cheesecake is central.

Usefulness: 2 (Cheesecake is often useful, and home-made baked cheesecake is always useful.)

Logofascination: 1 (Logofascination is expressed in many ways, including: the etymology of placenta; discovering that the word cheesecake has been around for 570-odd years; exploring the history of cheesecake all the way back to the Greeks; learning that there's a cheese called quark which allows you to have quark desserts such as quarkstrudel; and, finally, that the term beefcake originated from the slang use of cheesecake, somewhere in the 1940s or 50s: hoorah for the female gaze!)

In the wild: Quite a bit, I'm sure, but I found it while ransacking Sir Thomas' works for a reference to soul-cakes, traditionally made for All Hallow's Eve in Scotland; sadly, there don't appear to be any.

Degrees: 1

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: G&P, Second Book (Pantagruel), XI: How the Lords of Kissbreech and Suckfist did plead before Pantagruel without an attorney. Lord Kissbreech (Kissass in Frame) is arguing:
Howsoever, at least, he that would not let fly the fowl before the cheesecakes ought in law to have discovered his reason why not, for the memory is often lost with a wayward shoeing.
I'm not quite sure whether this chapter is intended to demonstrate the foolishness of the law or the foolishness of appearing without a lawyer - it may well be both. Either way, my favourite Frame comment reminds us that in this chapter 'any cogency or coherency is of course strictly coincidental'.

For a piece of nonsense, I spent rather a lot of time tracing the French source of cheesecake in this quote; the earlier copies of Rabelais do not sport it, but it turns up in both Urquhart and Smith; Frame has 'before slaps in the face' rather than cheesecake. It turns out that a later edition of Rabelais includes talemouses. Here we turn to Cotgrave to learn that talemouse can mean either a 'cake made of eggs and cheese' or a 'cuffe upon the lips'. Either way is nonsensical, but, personally, I'm with Urquhart and Smith in opting for the cheesecake option on this one.

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