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Inspirational Reads

Yet Another Interesting Word Find

August 16, 2009

So, in the past few months I've been reading a lot of things that deal with the history of the English language, etymology, the influence of Latin, and even a fair bit of that whole "how to learn Latin without taking any real classes because you're a cheap bastard" thing. Well, having a bunch of books around the house helps with that last one.

Anyway, while reading something about the name Peter and its influence on the Christian church and all (remember, the "rock on which I will build my church" and all), I came across another word that wasn't just cool and interesting, but also very useful for my work on the magnum opus. The word is "saxicolous".

Saxicoulous/saxicoline: adjective Living on or growing among rocks. It comes from the Latin (surprise!) saxum meaning rock and the verb colere, to dwell. Both forms are acceptable, though I think "saxicolous" is more the botanical term.

So, the main noble house in the story is called Montgomery. Montgomery, itself, is French and means "Gomeric's hill", and Gomeric is German and means "power of man". So, it makes sense then that House Montgomery lives on a hill. And they do. They live on the side of a mountain, which was land given to them by their liege lords, House Hall. The bestowal of the land was supposed to be a gift for services rendered and the undying loyalty of the Montgomerys to their lord, however, the land was at the end a low mountain chain and was not exactly lush. The rocky soil was not good for growing crops, and so others joked about how the only things that would grow on that mountain were thistles. While the Montgomerys discovered that the ground wasn't good for growing crops, they did find that it was good for providing mineral wealth, specifically gold. The Montgomerys then adopt the Thistle as their symbol (it has previously been a Hound, symbolizing their servitude and faithfulness), to mock those who had mocked them previously. It's kind of an acceptable form of "neener neener neener!"

As you can see, working the word "saxicolous" or "saxicoline" into that little narrative shouldn't be difficult (I'm kind of leaning toward the latter...sounds a little more keen). I'll bring it up from time to time while people are discussing the Montgomerys and their home on the side of the mountain.

In case you were dying to know, "saxatile" is the term used in describing a saxicolous plant via its species name. For example, the Heath Bedstraw found in the UK is called Galium saxatile.

Now hopefully Jeopardy will ask a question about this and once again make me look like a fucking genius (though I doubt it since they're mired in the College Championship reruns right now).


Some Guy said...

I remember one of your posts helped me out on a Jeopardy question once before. Hopefully this one will as well.

Soda and Candy said...

I hart learning and etymology. Does "Saxon" have anything to do with this?

Bev said...

Cool word! I'm tucking that one in my back pocket. Someday I will wow someone while on a nature walk.


Chaka said...

I wish I knew Latin. That would add some serious cool points to my resume if I could disect words like you do. Keep the lessons coming.

erin said...

It used to be my secret goal in life to go on Jeopardy, then once at my parent's house I let my secret slip and everyone started laughing hysterically.

Not so into going on Jeopardy anymore.

mo.stoneskin said...

I may have to buy a saxicolous plant for my wife on the way home.

I imagine the bottanist's reply will be something like...

'A what?'

Jill Pilgrim said...

I would totally humiliate myself on Jeopardy. I am not good in the clutch.

Eric said...

Excellent as always.
Is it any wonder that a saxophone is the most common wind instrument in a 'rock' band?

words...words...words... said...

And here I thought "Saxicoulous" was only an album by Grover Washington, Jr.!

corticoWhat said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK! Answer must be in the form of a question. :)