Friday 12 April 2013
Do you get confused between amaranth, nenuphar, asphodel and nephilim? I know I do. And even poets are bewildered.
Amaranth is the flower that never fades, also known as love-lies-bleeding. (The leaves and seeds can be eaten.)
A nenuphar is a waterlily.
Asphodel is a flower found in the fields of Elysium, a paradise for the righteous dead according to Greek mythology.
Ambrosia, according to the Greeks, is the food of the gods. According to the British, it is tinned rice pudding.
Nephilim: in the Bible, they are the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men.
"There are no fields of Amaranth this side of the grave. There are no voices, oh Rhodope, that are not soon mute, however tuneful: there is no name ... of which the echo is not faint at last." Walter Savage Landor (Perhaps he meant "asphodel".)
You crush rock, quench a fire (or your thirst), squelch something wet, squash something soft, quash an ugly rumour.
passive/impassive: not proactive/expressionless, calm
roll/role: small loaf of bread or flourish on a drum/part in a play
cordon/corden (police corden): police line/actor
cycads/circadian/Cycladic/cicadaCycads are plants. Circadian rhythms are from the Latin "circa dies", around the day. Cycladic sculpture was made in the Cyclades islands. A cicada is a cheeping insect.
mammoth/monolith/behemoth Foreign words ending in th that mean something big (extinct elephant/single block of stone/mythical Biblical monster)
disburse/disperse: It's annoying that they sound the same. You disburse money by handing it out; you disperse a crowd by politely persuading it to go home (or charging it on horseback).
savaged/ravaged: bitten and clawed by wild beast/devastated by flood, war etc
ridden by/riddled with/riven by You can be ridden by guilt, an obsession or a nightmare (you're the horse); riddled with holes like a Gruyère cheese; riven by dissent, quarrels and factions (it means "split"). If something is riven, it has a rift in it, whether it's a lute or a political party.
bounds/bonds: bounds (boundaries) of human knowledge/surly bonds (fetters) of earth
venial/venery/venal: minor and forgiveable/to do with Venus/commercial
ascetic/aseptic/antiseptic/septic/acetic/aestheticMonks in ascetic orders are self-denying; septic wounds are poisonous, so you apply an antiseptic; aseptic environments are bug-free; acetic acid is vinegar; aesthetic judgements relate to beauty and taste.
torque/torc: degree of twist/rigid semicircular neck ornament
More confusibles here.