Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowbound and Thinking of Blooms

As I write, the Heartland of all America is buried under about 15” of globally warm snow.  Three major storms in the last month have layered up quite nicely on the World’s Breadbasket.  Although “certain people” love snow, many are looking forward to the Spring when blooming flowers signal a new and welcome season.  Although Winter is essential for the life cycle of all living things, we perceive Spring as a time when life thrives again.

The idea of a thriving life anchors the IE Root bhel-2 meaning to bloom.  (Before we go further, be sure you have read two prior posts – one has to do with how these roots wind up with different consonant sounds, the other is a closely related root bhel-1 meaning to swell, not far off the idea of blooming.)  Like a ball swells when it is inflated, a flower swells when it blooms.  As in other cases, the b in bhel-2 can occasionally flip upside down making a p for a ph_l sound.  A blooming flower is one of the best indicators that a plant, and an environment, is thriving.  Floral and florist are clearly in the same word family.  Healthy foliage is also an indicator of thriving.    One of my favorite plants is the five-leafed Virginia Creeper vine, or as it is fantastically known technically – parthenocissus quinquefolia.  Quinquefolia = quinque (five) + folia (foliage / leaves).  (Although words sometime flip consonant positions, leaf is not related to folia.)  Think of that roll of aluminum foil in your kitchen.  It’s metal, but the foil is as thin and flexible as a leaf.  (In fact, “gold leaf” is foil that is very, very thin for applying as a decorative outer layer of an object.)  A folio is a sheet of paper folded once to make two leaves.  A portfolio is a folio that is portable.

In the
bhel-1 post we discover what the word phallus meant; now, bhel-2 gives us the sounds-familiar name Phyllis (altogether different meaning, foliage).
Interestingly, the words blood and bleed also seem to be related here.  Etymologists suppose that, at a cut, blood “blooms” out.  It could also be related to the idea that blood is associated with a thriving life.  Bless is related, originally meaning to mark with blood, to consecrate.  

Let’s wrap up with blade.  We don’t call grass foliage “blades” because they look like little knives, but because knives look like blades of grass foliage.  (Confused?  Just think about which came first - grass or knives.)  In fact, one particular blade of foliage is quite famous.  Those powerful, fierce gladiators carry a short sword with strong, sharp blades. In Latin, the sword is called a gladius… because it looks like a blade of foliage, most similarly resembling a gladiola plant.  Isn’t that cute; rough, tough gladiators are really just florists at heart.

The following is purely for my own amusement - as if the rest of this is not!  A thousand years ago, my college Latin professor, Dr. Anthony D'Amico, enjoyed telling the following story about a colleague - Dr. Foley.  Foley happened to be just a tad hefty and suffered name calling because of it - Roly-Poly Foley.  Like D'Amico, Foley was always studying one topic or another and preparing folios on various topics - Roly-Poly Foley Folios.  Once, he became fascinated with butter-substitutes and prepared a paper on the topic - Roly-Poly Foley Oleo Folio.  Alas, even in academia, opposing voices rise to be heard and Foley was challenged on some assertions made in paper (perhaps that margarine is non-fattening).  Foley countered with defensive argument and so the argument grew - Roly-Poly Foley Oleo Folio Embroglio.  Thus ended the tale, perhaps, I surmise because D'Amico couldn't append more rhyming words.  Or because he decided to move on to childish puns about entomologists. 

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