Friday, 25 August 2006

An elephant never exfoliates.

It struck me today that 'pachyderm', as in elephant, means 'thick-skinned'. Fair enough. They are. But it does seem to suggest that two ancient Greeks must once have had a conversation on these lines:

- So, then. Regarding this gigantic creature in front of us, then; the largest land animal any man has ever seen, with its monstrous flapping ears, its two huge shafts of bone projecting from its mouth, and its incredible prehensile proboscis, with which it is even now sending gallons of water cascading over its enormous body, as it lets loose a mighty trumpeting roar... what would you say is the most striking thing about it?

- I bet it's got really thick skin.

- ...Yes, it probably has. Ok, let's call it that.

- Fine by me. By the way, what's a gallon?

- Oh, alright. Kotulai, then. Smart alec.

8 comments:

John F said...

Although, come to think of it, 'pachyderm' can also describe a hippopotamus or a rhinocerus. Hmm. This isn't one of my better blog postings, is it?

James Casey said...

Still, 'pachyderm' is a lovely word. For the record, I believe the Ancient Greeks actually called the elephant, 'ho elephas', as near as I can render it in the Latin Alphabet. I've found a mention in Plato's 'Critias'.

Hippopotamus, another great word, is from 'hippos' and 'potamos', which mean, 'horse' and 'river' respectively. I suppose Alexander of Macedon might have encountered a rhino but I'm not sure of the Greek name for it.

James Casey said...

NB 'ho elephas' would no doubt decline with the stem, 'elephant-', hence the modern term.

James Casey said...

My geode must be acknowledged.

John F said...

Oh, alright. 'Welcome, fellow geogologist!'

And well done on your elephantine classical research. Not a compliment I often pay.

Incidentally, it's 'rhinokeros', apparently. On account of the horn. And the nose.

John F said...

I mean Geodologist. Damn,

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