Monday, February 4, 2013


Meaning: Cotgrave:
the water Lillie, or water Rose
Usefulness: 1 (I might need to change my ratings to allow for the beauty of a word.  I'm not sure how useful it is, but it is lovely, particularly the French and Spanish version nénufar.)

Logofascination: 1 (Came to us from Sanskrit and Persian via Arabic nilūfar and a transcription error.)

In the wild: A friend used it as a metaphor: "I was like the nenuphar, floating on the lake". The poetic moment was spoilt when I spent the next few minutes asking about the word instead of the story.

Degrees: 2 (but only just; see below)

Connections: nenuphar - water-lily

Which is used in: G&P, Book the Third, LI: Why it is called Pantagruelion, and of the admirable virtues thereof. Pantagruelion is a wonder-herb named after Pantagruel; there are a few theories about which one Rabelais had in mind (or if it is indeed imaginary) but more on that another day. Pantagruel did not invent or discover the plant itself, but rather
a certain use which it serves for, exceeding odious and hateful to thieves and robbers, unto whom it is more contrarious and hurtful than the strangle-weed and chokefitch is to the flax, the cats-tail to the brakes, the sheave-grass to the mowers of hay, the fitches to the chickney-pease, the darnel to barley, the hatchet-fitch to the lentil pulse, the antramium to the beans, tares to wheat, ivy to walls, the water-lily to lecherous monks, the birchen rod to the scholars of the college of Navarre in Paris, colewort to the vine-tree, garlic to the loadstone, onions to the sight, fern-seed to women with child, willow-grain to vicious nuns, the yew-tree shade to those that sleep under it, wolfsbane to wolves and libbards*, the smell of fig-tree to mad bulls, hemlock to goslings, purslane to the teeth, or oil to trees.
This is one of the rare occasions where Sir Thomas has slightly less words - Rabelais had "le Nenuphar & Nymphea Heraclia" but Sir Thomas uses the English water-lily instead. Pliny apparently claimed that the water-lily was good against love-potions, thereby giving it a reputation as a suppressor of libidos.


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