Saturday, January 22, 2022

"Non volo peccare" syncs

 Just after posting "Non volo peccare," in which I discuss a punning mistranslation of that Latin sentence as "Pigs don't fly" (since volo can mean "I fly," and a peccary is basically a pig), I fell to wondering whether any of the early explorers of the Americas might have coined a real Latin word for "peccary." This led me to the Wiktionary article for peccary -- but before I could scroll down to the "Translations" section, I was struck by the English definition itself: "Any of the family Tayassuidae of mammals from the Americas related to pigs and hippos."

"And hippos"? Isn't that an utterly bizarre way of characterizing an animal that looks and behaves almost exactly like a pig and nothing at all like a hippo? And in taxonomic terms, the lowest clade to include both peccaries and hippos also includes giraffes, reindeer, and whales! I understand that hippos were thought to be more closely related to pigs in the past, but even so, putting "related to hippos" in the definition of the word peccary seems very strange.

In my post, I had written, "To want to ascend to Heaven ('fly') whilst remaining a 'pig' is to want the impossible." Not until I saw the Wiktionary definition of peccary did I think to connect this with T. S. Eliot's hippopotamus who "takes wing" and ascends to Heaven.

I saw the 'potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

(Someone who is currently a "hippopotamus" can ascend to Heaven, of course -- but, as in the story cited in my earlier post, it involves killing the pig.)

Also shortly after posting "Non volo peccare," I checked some blogs and saw an Andrew Anglin post, "Friday Meme Surprise: Are Memes Good?" The title made me think that "Are memes good?" might itself be a meme, so I ran a search for the phrase. This led me to a 2018 Verge article called "It's not all Pepes and trollfaces -- Memes can be a force for good," and I skimmed it a bit. This jumped out at me.

"Memes often carry an idea to an extreme, sometimes in a reductio ad absurdum fashion, which makes them feel even more powerful as a form of social influence," Suler says, citing a term that refers to rhetorical phrases -- "when pigs fly," for example -- that use absurdity to prove a point.

What a strange example to choose! "When pigs fly" is definitely not a reductio ad absurdum, neither in the original sense of refuting a premise by deriving an absurdity from it, nor in Suler's sense of rhetorical exaggeration for polemical purposes.

This morning, I found this comment on my "Non volo peccare" post.

 I had a dream last night in which I was walking through a park close to where I lived. In my dream I remembered that you had written in your blog that sometime in the past you had visited my city and had been at that park. I also remembered that you had written recently about a symbol which was the combination of an e (small, not capital) and an o. Then, I saw that symbol carved several times on a rock or a wall. Other things happened in My dream which I don't remember. When I woke up, I wondered what could be the meaning of that symbol. I looked at your blog, to see if I could find an answer (but not really counting on it). To my surprise, I saw the image of the winged peccary surrounded by the red forbidden sign. Then it jumped to me, the forbidden sign is a combination of a small e and an o. And in the context of your post, the message was clear: do not sin, wanting to go to heaven is not enough, pigs don't fly.

I assume that the source of the e/o symbol in the dream was my post about E. O. Wilson, which  featured this photo.

Sergio saw a combination of e and o in the "forbidden sign" (a circle with a diagonal line through it). In this context, I note that Danish uses ø to represent the mid front rounded vowel that is phonetically intermediate between e (mid front unrounded) and o (mid back rounded).

Really, though the line going through a lowercase e is horizontal, not diagonal. Sergio would have no way of knowing it, but I had recently created (but not published) this image in connection with a post I am working on about the symbolism of the globus cruciger.

(It's a schematic top view of the globus cruciger from the British crown jewels, showing the locations of different gemstones.)


Sergio said...

It is funny, but I did not consciously remember the E. O. Wilson post. I assumed that my memory of a post in your blog regarding the letters e and o was a false memory from my dream, like that of your visit to my city. My subconscious must have remembered it though.
In my dream, the symbol was carved several times, in different orientations. In some of the carvings the line across the circle was almost horizontal, resembling your diagram of the crown. In others, the line was diagonal, like in the Danish vowel or the "forbidden" sign. Regardless of the orientation of the line, in my dream, I immediately associated the symbol with a combination of a small e and an o. Only until seeing the "non volo peccare" post in your blog did I make the association between the symbol in my dream and the "forbidden" sign.

jorg said...

"Really, though the line going through a lowercase e is horizontal, not diagonal."

Yet in the very sentence where you write that, its diagonal because of the e being italicized.

White sands, red sun

Bruce Charlton recently posted on C. S. Lewis's Law of Undulation . For me, the undulation tends to be between thinking and synching. I ...