Tag Archives: word history

Stases and Searching

sta·sis [stey-sis, stas-is]

noun, plural sta·ses  [stey-seez, stas-eez]

1. the state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces.

Origin: 1735–45;  < Greek stásis  state of standing, equivalent to sta–  (stem of histánai  to make stand; see stand) + -sis -sis

 

Stasis

rut, pitfall,

evil to avoid?

Or the deep breath

before the freefall?

 

 

Stasis II

 

Still,

            not calm

            nor patient.

Ship

in the Sargasso

            waiting

for the barometer

            to

           

                        drop.

Orienteer

on lodestone,

cradling a useless compass

            going nowhere,

            pointing everywhere.

                        waiting

                                    for the stars

                                                to shine.

Still,

            not calm.

Gathering potential

            energy.

 

                        I hope.

 

It’s a word I’m mildly obsessed with, since it’s a state I find myself in probably too often. I don’t normally post things without analyzing them a bit more, but wrote these at work and needed to exorcize them as it were.

 

So, how do you break stasis and regain the impetus to movement?

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Filed under Poetry

Chrysocolla Family Reunion

Some more about the Impressionist chrysocolla (and its sisters).

A treasure trove:

Dusty's Find of a Lifetime

The fantastic Dusty found two slabs of chrysocolla amongst other treasures in a thrift store and had one cut into cabochons. She sent pieces from the same slab to a few different wireworkers. I thought it’d be fun to show several pendants in different styles that were not just from the same type of stone, but from the same original slice.

I wrote about my nympheas piece the other day.

Here’s the one of the pieces Dusty made from her fabulous find.

A lush profusion of color (and skill with spirals that I so envy) is a hallmark of Jennifer’s work. I mentioned her wirework in passing when I was showing off her wild bird photography, so I had to eventually do her jeweler side justice 🙂

Jennifer's Shades of Chrysocolla

 

And the third beauty by the always elegant Krista.

About the stone:

Chrysocolla is a copper silicate. Because of the copper its colors stay in the green/blue range with occasional black or brown inclusions. Unsurprisingly for a silicate it is often described as having a glassy luster. (Sometimes it’s unflatteringly described as greasy.) It is a relatively soft stone without much of a solid structure. It can be a pseudomorph, like pietersite, replacing other minerals that have been dissolved away. Chrysocolla is often associated with other copper ores like azurite, malachite and limonite.

(A variation found near Eliat in Israel is called Eliat stone, it is chrysocolla with malachite and turquoise.)

Trista's Malleable

 

Chrysocolla is most commonly found in Chile, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Russia, the American southwest and Zaire. It’s name comes from the greek words chrysos (gold) and kolla (glue) because it resembled the material they used to solder gold. (I don’t know what the ancients used for soldering, but color me curious…)

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Filed under Crafts, Gems, Natural Science

A Mammoth (if slightly belated) Presidents’ Day

Thomas Jefferson is credited with being one of the first people to use mammoth as an adjective. While he might not have coined the usage, he was certainly integral to its popularity.

The Mammoth…

Mastodon fossils had been found in the United States, well, before it was the United States. In 1705 some large teeth had been found, which Puritan clergymen attributed to a race of giants destroyed in Noah’s flood. 

(Some historians think the ancients made similar assumptions about fossils they may have discovered. Apparently there are little to no references among the ancients about finding fossils, but much about finding the skeletons of heroes and monsters. There is a theory that at least some of the classical myths dealing with giants and monsters were originally inspired by fossil finds. One proposed derivation is that the large hole where the trunk would have attached in mammoth skulls led to the myth of the Cyclops with its one huge eye dead in the center of its forehead.)

In 1799 workers found large bones while digging on a farm in the Hudson River Valley. A number of local people started pulling bones out of the ground and housing them in the granary. Interest in them waned for a year or so, but eventually news spread to the American Philosophical Society and through them to not just yet president Thomas Jefferson.

Charles Willson Peale's Exhumation of the MastodonJefferson sent his friend Charles Willson Peale, the artist and creator of the first American art and natural science museum, to investigate. He was officially there to draw the fossils, but soon decided to acquire them and the rights to look for the rest. He eventually managed to get nearly a full skeleton, and in 1801 brought it back to his museum and gallery in Philadelphia. He spent months reconstructing it with the aid of naturalist Caspar Wistar. 

Years later Jefferson would have William Clark to continue the hunt for mammoth bones in the Hudson River Valley and elsewhere, partially in the hope of finding the parts missing from Peale’s skeleton.

…and the Cheese! 

The Cheshire Mammoth Cheese was a gift from the town of Cheshire, CT to Presisdent Jefferson. In a letter Jefferson described it as being 4’ 4 ½” in diameter and 15’ thick and weighing 1230 pounds.

The gift was both instigated and delivered by pastor Elder John Leland as a thank you from the local Baptist community to Jefferson for his stance on religious liberty and sustaining the division between church and state. The cheese was too big to be transported on a wheeled vehicle, so Leland brought it from Cheshire to Washington DC by sleigh.

Jefferson’s election was a tempestuous one, and he was often skewered by the federalist papers. A writer at the Hampshire Gazette derisively took the name of Jefferson’s famous creature and used it as an adjective to emphasize how ridiculous he found the giant cheese and its winding path to DC. Jefferson himself later used the term in a letter he wrote to his son-in-law describing the famous cheese. (note: Jefferson was morally opposed to elected officials accepting gifts, so he in turn made a gift of $200 to the town of Cheshire.)

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Filed under Historical Facts and Trivia

Warning: Word Rant

Death Riding by Albrecht Durer

I’m reading an excellent book by David P Clark called Germs, Genes, and Civilization. I like histories and epidemiology, so the two mixed together are right up my alley. It has several interesting aspects, mentions some things that ought to be obvious and yet are not really so self evident, and has a few really fun theories about plagues in Ancient History. Unfortunately it also hits fairly regularly on one of my pet peeves, which is a recurring issue in popular books on plagues and disease. It’s an English language geek one, so probably sounds pretty silly to most people.

The word decimate literally means to kill one out of every ten, from the Latin word decimus, meaning “tenth.” Think decimal system, they have similar roots. Using the word more loosely, but still appropriately, it should be used to refer to the death of a significant proportion of a population, but still in the ballpark of a tenth. Otherwise say, a quarter, a third, a half… a proportion with a hint of precision. The problem is that decimate has become a synonym for destroy, a word used when a very large portion, or a majority, are killed. (This is not to say that one tenth of a population being killed by anything is insignificant…)

One book I took out from the library used decimate in place of destroy approximately every five pages in a chapter on bubonic plague. I couldn’t take it anymore and brought it back to the library unfinished.

The problem is that it still holds its original meaning but is also in the process of that terrifying change whereby if enough people use a word incorrectly it eventually takes on the incorrect meaning. This problem becomes especially confusing when the meanings are a distance apart rather than a matter of nuance.

For example, in one part of the Clark book he was discussing about the decrease in virulence of a specific disease over time. On one page he refers to plague decimating the city, then the next page he points out that a few hundred years later it only killed one tenth of the population. Contrasting a word against its original (true) meaning doesn’t give any meaningful data or even a fair impression of the numbers we’re dealing with here.

Besides, if even super villains can get it right, surely academics can too?

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Filed under Books, Historical Facts and Trivia