Dot Wordsworth

Woodwoses

My husband gave me a copy of Plutarch’s Moralia for our wedding anniversary, the romantic old thing. It is in the translation of Philemon Holland, made in 1603 and republished in 1657. At the back is ‘An Explanation of certain obscure words… in favour of the unlearned Reader’. That’s me.

Some entries in the glossary make sense. To Pinguifie, we are told, means ‘To make fat’, and Gymnosophists were ‘Philosophers of India who went naked and led beside a more austere and precise life.’ But some entries seem to define simpler terms by harder ones, as with Satyrs: ‘Woodwoses or monsters. Creatures with tails, yet resembling Men and Women, and in part Goats.’ I like the idea of woodwoses being more familiar than satyrs.

Curvature, says the glossator, means ‘a Bending or Crookedness. Also a Runde.’ A what? A runde, is, I think, a round, though in what sense, who can say? — a ring, a chain-link, a turn of yarn, a group of people standing for a round-dance, an archery target, a ruff, a piece of beef, a turret, a clump of flowers, the curve of a river, an orb, the vault of heaven, a rung, a chair-leg, a sword-stroke, a song, a circle of life, a circuit, a diversion, a sentry patrol. I’ll know it when I find it in one of the preceding thousand pages.

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