In the papal symbol, crossed are “the keys of the kingdom” promised to Peter who became the first pope. In the Gospel of Matthew 16:19 Jesus says “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The triple crown or tiara symbolizes the pope’s three functions: supreme pastor, supreme teacher and supreme priest.
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A Potpourri of Popery
All genuflecting toward one side, folks, onlookers must admit that the pope is one sporty-lookin’ dude when caparisoned in his full Vatican regalia, swathed in silken ensembles, richly attired in embroidered habiliments, gowned in silver-threaded raiment that would abash a pasha. Kitted out in his Sunday best, that geezer is old but bold. This time we examine a few of the names of these papal frocks. But remember, no peeking under a papal mantle to see if there’s a crouching altar-boy. If you do peek, the punishment is six Hail-Bruces.
It’s his little white or red skullcap, much like a pious Jew’s yarmulke. Cardinals and the Pope wear it most often but lesser clergy may don it at times. It’s a diminutive form of Italian zucca ‘gourd’ which very early became a slang synonym for the human head, and hence something little that fits on the head. English has similar popular terms for head like coconut, the old bean, the conk. Interestingly the word zucchetto wore its way into English bearing the wrong grammatical gender. In Italian, it is most widely used as a feminine noun, la zucchetta.
zucchetto change on warm day
What is it? A large, body-covering ornamental, often embroidered cloak or cope which began, humbly enough, as a rain cloak. The mantum has a hood and is open at the front. It’s fastened in front by a usually ornate golden clasp called a morse, inset with rare gems of Ind and Araby, sparkling with purple amethysts, moss opals, choice chrysoberyls, sards, sphenes, spinels, and rubies red as a starving parishioner’s eyes. The word morse has the same source as our word morsel (‘little bite’). In classical Latin morsus meant literally ‘the bite,’ but it also meant the buckle or catch that “bit” two pieces of clothing and held them together.
The mantum is a liturgical vestment that once played a central part in the investiture ceremonial of a new pope. As he donned the papal mantum, the investing bishop said “Investio te de papatu romano ut praesis urbi et orbi” — I invest thee with the Roman papacy, that thou mayest rule over the city and the world. The last three words became important in papal history. One of the papal encyclicals, wherein the pope pronounced upon various religious matters was called “Urbi et orbi.” Here too the church plays fast and loose with Latin. Nowadays the pope gives an “urbi et orbi once a year and the Vatican always tells journalists that the Latin means [an address] “to the city [Rome] and to the world.” But for that meaning to apply the Latin words would have to be in the accusative case. They are in fact in the regnatory dative, because their original meaning is “this papal address rules over the city and the world.” Earthlings may thank some deity that such pontifical fascism no longer applies. To the right is Pope Paul VI who liked nothing better than queening down a marbled portico in a brocaded and jewelled mantum. But you know short guys — they always overdress.
Mantum: A Fake Word
The source of mantum as a word is evidence of a certain ecclesiastical hocus-pocus. Whenever the church could not find the Latin root of a word, they snuck into the vestry and simply made up a source. The assigned monklets and nunlets in the Vatican scriptorium had trouble finding mantum in classical Latin, for a very good reason: it didn’t exist. The Romans had mantellum, an uncommon word for cloak and mantica ‘a bag to hold a folded cloak, a knapsack.’ They saw mantellum in a Latin word list. It looked like a diminutive. They didn’t want the glorious pope clad in anything so second-rate as a diminutive. So, probably sometime in the 7 th century appears what is called a back formation. They stripped off the diminutive suffix –ellum and made up the word mantum, a form which appears nowhere else in 1,500 years of Latin text.
A cappello romano (Italian ‘Roman hat’) is a hat with a wide brim and a rounded rim worn by Catholic clergy. Its other name is saturno, a playful synonym, so dubbed by some wag who thought its brim resembled the rings of Saturn. It is seen above worn by the only pope I ever responded to in a positive manner, the benevolent Pope John XIII. Of course, the sclerotic papal nincompoops and rightwing Catholic fascists who came after John have done everything in their papal power to erase his humane reforms. Wikipedia states: “It is made of either beaver fur or felt, and lined in white silk. Unlike many other articles of ecclesiastical attire, it serves no ceremonial purpose, being primarily a practical item, worn in private life. The pope wears a red cappello with gold cords. Cardinals formerly also had the privilege of wearing a red cappello, but this rule was overturned by Paul VI, and now Cardinals’ cappelli are black, as are those of all other clerics.”
This white-silk vestment, whose wearing is restricted to the pope, is a long skirt-like cloth extending from under the alb. The alb (Latin album ‘white thing’) is the simple white linen tunic of the ancient Romans, the garment of daily choice for Roman men. It touches the ankles and is often belted with a cincture. Its use is confined to a Pontifical High Mass. Upon the death of a pope, his falda may be draped over the Pope’s body during the funeral.
Falda is an Italian word whose basic meaning is ‘layer,’ borrowed into Italian from some Germanic term directly related to English ‘fold.’ In Spanish, falda is the common word for ‘skirt,’ something with folds in its cloth.
The Piscatory Ring
Proclaiming that he is the mystical successor of Saint Peter, the Fisherman’s Ring is newly cast in gold for each papal investiture. When a pope dies, this signatory ring is removed and crushed in front of all the cardinals, so that, during sede vacante (Italian ‘the empty chair’), the interregnum before the new pope has been chosen, no impostor may forge papal documents by sealing them with the old pope’s signet. Piscator is Latin for ‘fisherman.’ We know the fishy sign of the zodiac as Pisces ‘the fishes.’ La piscine is the French word for swimming pool, which suggests that, originally, it was, as piscina, a Roman fish pool filled with prized guppies and whatever then passed for koi.
From The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “The Ring of the Fisherman”
“The earliest mention of the ‘Ring of the Fisherman’ worn by the popes is in a letter of Clement IV written in 1265 to his nephew, Peter Grossi. The writer states that popes were then accustomed to seal their private letters with ‘the seal of the Fisherman,’ whereas public documents, he adds, were distinguished by the leaden bulls (seals) attached. From the fifteenth century, however, the Fisherman’s ring has been used to seal the class of papal official documents known as Briefs. The Fisherman’s ring is placed, by the Cardinal Camerlengo on the finger of a newly elected pope. It is made of gold, with a representation of St. Peter in a boat, fishing, and the name of the reigning pope around it.”
copyright © 2012 William Gordon Casselman
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Reviews of my Book
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Jenni French of San Francisco, California writes on her blog "My Corner of the Universe" for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover's Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
"I admit it: I'm a word nerd. I love words: weird words, long words, obscure words, funny words. This book is right up my alley. With chapters like "Nautical Words," "Creepy Words," and "Edible Words," I have enjoyed every page of this book. And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it. My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: "What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names" (19). I'm sure I'll have another favorite sentence in a day or two. This book is just that good and just that entertaining."
Author Bill Casselman replies: "Thanks, Jenni!"
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word essays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011 Welcome to the Enchanted ForestBy WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest,Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
In the best of the spiritual tradition, Bill is the shape-shifter who constantly leads you to all the places you need to find in your soul. Every page is a new country, an invitation to an excursion into the wonderland of rich connections with the myriad of sources of what so often we unthinkingly wield as a prosaic tool.
Pay absolutely no attention to anyone who tells you that this book is anything but pure gold. It’s simply not true, sadly, that all the world loves a lover. Particularly someone whose love is so boundless.
But Sir William is fearless. You don’t earn your keep as a medicine man if you have a thin skin. While I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone could walk away from this book unmoved by its wit, its wisdom and the beautiful transparency by which the author celebrates the glorious romp of our almost unlimited linguistic exuberance, I have to sadly conclude that once in a while, you do meet someone who can’t see the forest for the trees, eh?
Read this book. Leave it on the sofa instead of the $%#!*$% TV remote. Maybe someone you care about will pick it up, even just for a moment, and fall in love with their heritage? Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog "Creativity Unlimited" of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
Tags: 365 things to look forward to, books, reading
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one. If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . . Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?"
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my new book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011 Dear Mr. Casselman,
A search for the origins of an improbable-looking word, paraprosdokian, led me to the first piece of your prose I have had the pleasure of reading, "The Bogus Word Paraprosdokian & Lazy Con Artists of Academe." I have just placed an order for Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik, Canadian Words & Sayings, and As The Canoe Tips, and will add more of your titles as I finish these.
I have just retired from a 40-plus year career in book publishing, the last thirty years spent as director/editor of a number of university presses, attempting to sort the genuine writers from the "Lazy Con Artists of Academe." Sad to say, the latter have so over-bred the former that I could no longer see the rare gem in the avalanches of offal that daily swamped my office and desk. I visited your website and spent far too long there; it was a pleasure to meet a real writer through his work.. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman's Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the "profligate prof-lets." During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let's first book, "Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it."
I know I will enjoy your books. Keep up the good work.
University of New Mexico Press, among others
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