Sunday, December 23, 2012


Meaning: forerunner or precursor; or introductory treatise or book; or symptoms characteristic of the onset of a disease.

Usefulness: 1 (I think this should be adopted as the name for the commercial preparation for Christmas, the secular equivalent to Advent. "Thank goodness the prodrome is nearly over; after two months of relentless tinsel-covered mercantilism, I'm not sure I'll have any festive cheer remaining for the feast itself.")

Logofascination: 1 (Another running word, part of the dromos family mentioned previously in hippodramatic and dromomania.)

In the wild: With reference to smallpox, in Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, part of his Baroque Cycle. Most of my reading at the moment is in and around the 17th century, one way or another.

Degrees: 2

Connections: prodrome - forerunner

Which is used in: G&P, Book the First (Gargantua), XXI: The study of Gargantua, according to the discipline of his schoolmasters the Sophisters.  Rabelais is using the word 'discipline' loosely here, possibly to the extent of sarcasm - this is a description of Gargantua's evening meal:
he sat down at table; and because he was naturally phlegmatic, he began his meal with some dozens of gammons, dried neat's tongues, hard roes of mullet, called botargos, andouilles or sausages, and such other forerunners of wine. In the meanwhile, four of his folks did cast into his mouth one after another continually mustard by whole shovelfuls. Immediately after that, he drank a horrible* draught of white wine for the ease of his kidneys. When that was done, he ate according to the season meat agreeable to his appetite, and then left off eating when his belly began to strout, and was like to crack for fulness. As for his drinking, he had in that neither end nor rule. For he was wont to say, That the limits and bounds of drinking were, when the cork of the shoes of him that drinketh swelleth up half a foot high.
There's your guide for Christmas eating and drinking, folks, although you should bear in mind that Gargantua is a giant - you may only need one mustard-shoveller. The salt meats are forerunners of wine as they cause one to drink more.

*probably an older sense of horrible meaning excessive or immoderate

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