Corona Diary, Day 28

Sunday, 12 April 2020

I need some exercise and decided to walk to Vaksala church past my local store and one of Uppsala’s major out-of-town shopping centres. There’s not all that many people about. Most of them pass sensibly at a safe distance.

I didn’t take my mask but after reading the stories about 90 + people in the UK who have died of Corona, I think I will wear it regularly out of doors. The list is, to some extent, an arbitrary selection of people but it’s still interesting. It contains a number of transport workers, bus drivers etc. as well as large number of health care workers, doctors and nurses. The fatalities among doctors and nurses, tragic and horrifying though they are, are not surprising given the intensity of contact and the lack of protective equipment. The bus drivers are more surprising. They do meet a lot of people but for a very short space of time and probably seldom get sneezed on, which to me indicates that people are becoming infected by being sufficiently close to come into contact with a person’s exhaled breath (this is presumably also a major path of infection for people infected by asympomatic individuals).

It’s a longish walk to the church, which is in a calm and ancient environment although not far from a very large shopping centre. There’s a pagan graveyard nearby with humps and stones but not a lot of explanatory material. I like the tall, narrow steeple of the church. I don’t know its age but it has a very ancient feel to it – the church was originally built in the eleventh century but has been rebuilt on a number of occasions.

There are a number of interesting features inside the church but I leave this to another occasion as there may be a few people inside on Easter Sunday (probably not a service but various other activities).  I don’t find Linnaeus’ daughter’s grave either but leave that for a more well-prepared visit.

It feels satisfactory to have looked at the area. Now I know the small trails around my house almost as well as I know the trails around my son’s house outside Kolkata…….

It’s exciting to have discovered more about Uppsala and its agricultural hinterland and I feel enthusiastic about exploring more of it during the summer if I’m in Sweden then.

I thought when I got back to the house that I would feel a bit euphoric after 12,000 steps but it stops at greater physical comfort without added joie de vivre. It’s not a great day’s work – I stamp another three bookshelves with my ex libris stamp, re-read the chapter of Bangla I’ve been working on,  calculate the number of words I translated in 2019, which brings to a close my work with statistics, and pay the company’s tax; this interspersed with rather aimless surfing. Perhaps I’m disturbed by it being a holiday, though there would hardly be any logical reason for that given the general state of things just now.

And I have a few new words and words that I’ve paid more attention to.

“saturnine” I’ve known for a long time but my definition was a bit fuzzy. It means “dark and brooding” which was more or less as I thought but I didn’t know before that it was “identified with lead by alchemists and associated with slowness and gloom by astrologers” I’ve lost the source of this quote but will add it on when I find it.

And then I became curious about the etymology of “gloom”

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, as well as the Shorter OD and Webster, all mention that it is of unknown origin.

According to Wikipedia:

From Middle English *gloom*glom, from Old English glōm (“gloaming, twilight, darkness”), from Proto-Germanic *glōmaz (“gleam, shimmer, sheen”), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰley- (“to gleam, shimmer, glow”). Cognate with Scots gloam (“twilight; faint light; dull gleam”), Norwegian glom (“transparent membrane”)

I can’t see a source for the Wikipedia entry but find “glom” and “glömung” in my Anglo-Saxon to English dictionary. The meaning seems to have wandered a bit from the Scots word that could mean “dull gleam” but the Anglo-Saxon – Norwegian (Old Norse?) origin seems credible.

I wonder why the Oxford dictionaries don’t mention it. It would be nice to have a dictionary just of words with problematic or disputed etymologies. Some time I shall go through some of the work that language experts have done on English, espcially West Country, place names and try to separate the words where the proposals made are based on linguistic facts or theories and those that are really only informed guesses.

Then a fine new word that my younger daughter introduced me to: “sophrosyne” of sound mind, prudent. I haven’t had occasion to use it but hope there will be an opportunity to give it an airing.

From the TLS, I picked up “pinguid” meaning of the nature or resembling unctuous, greasy; fertile in agricultural contexts.

This comes from Latin where I believe “pinguis” means fat.

unctuous” exists in late Middle English (in the sense ‘greasy’): from medieval Latin unctuosus, from Latin unctus ‘anointing’, from unguere ‘anoint’.

Finally, there was “gnomon” – one who knows or examines or an indicator.

That make me think about the etymology of gnome (which is unconnected with gnomon.

The word gnome comes from the Medieval Latin term ‘gnomus’, which was used by the 16th century Swiss scientist Paracelsus, in reference to an elemental creature living on earth. He may have been inspired by the Greek word, ‘genomo’, meaning ‘earth-dweller’.

And that was about as good as it gets. Tomorrow is another day….

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