The Toad's Words

Excursus #13

Welcome back! I have been traveling on trains, planes, boats, ships, cars, limos, buses, taxis, and a couple of fun rides at Legoland. I am now rested and more worldly than I have ever been in my life. So now it is time to get back to work.

For my readers with a good memory, you will recall that Toad #11 and Toad #12 discussed the word 'olio.' Well, upon my return I found this new definition in my E-mail box.

"An Olio in Vaudeville was the short mish mosh of acts that filled the time between main acts. The curtain these olios performed in front of was called the olio curtain. Sometimes spelled oleo, this curtain was rolled up around a tube and raised and lowered with ropes and pulleys. The Melodrama Theatre in Oceano uses an oleo curtain. Olio acts were often incorporated in melodramas to help ease the tension in the audience. These olios often occurred at act breaks."

--Dave Holmes

Dave Holmes is the Theater Arts teacher just down the road at San Marcos High School. For those of you interested, San Marcos H.S. is the school that produced the likes of Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Cathy Ireland, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Hence, we never miss a theater production at that school. Thanks, Dave! This is the kind of input I am looking for.

Now that I am rested and worldly, I guess I need to introduce us to some really impressive words. Hence, this Toad's Words will use words that I came across while milling around Northern Europe.

Sylvan, adjective

Relating to woody or forested regions. Having trees or woods in the area. Rural, rustic, arboreous, scenic.

This word is interesting to me because we never seem to have sylvan scenes or regions in the U.S.A., but they are all over England. I think their writers have better vocabularies. My older books claim that it should be spelled 'silvan' because it comes from the Latin silva meaning a wood. The noun form is a person living in a wooded region.

The castle could be seen rising out of the morning mist lying over the sylvan glen.

Plinth, noun

The lower square part of the base of a column. The square base of a statue or vase. The projecting set of stones, immediately above the ground, that support a wall.

From the Greek plinthos - tile or brick squared for building.

The sign on the wall around the fountain in the British sylvan glade properly stated: 'Do not sit on plinth.'

Sub rosa, adverb

Secretly, confidentially, or privately.

I love this word. It comes from the Latin meaning "under the rose." The rose is an ancient symbol of secrecy. It has been common practice that if a rose is on the dinner table, then the conversation is not to be repeated elsewhere. In the Frederiksborg Castle, in Denmark, the dining room of the royal family is The Rose - a room decorated in roses. This is where the family could come and safely know that the walls did not have ears. Sub vino sub rosa est - What one says under the influence of wine is secret.

According to Greek legend, Harpocrates happened across Venus during a tryst. Cupid bought Harpocrates silence by presenting him with a rose. Hence, the rose became a symbol of silence.

In the old days, journalists handled our Presidents' indiscretions as sub rosa.

Dacha, noun

Pronounced da (a as in father), sha (a as in about), accent on da.

A Russian country house. This is a term I have heard for years but until a few 'dachas' were pointed out to us outside St. Petersburg, I really didn't get the concept. I had always thought a 'dacha' was the estate or villa that Soviet leadership went to in the country. That is true. It also refers to the cabins or houses that Russians go to in the country. There are many of both extremes in the resort villages of Peterhof and Tsarkoye Selo (Pushkin) outside of St. Petersburg. Even the one room dacha seems relaxing after learning that there are no houses in St. Petersburg, and that all five million people live in apartments.

Nicholas II's palace in the sylvan Tsarkove Selo was surrounded by dachas built by the upper class who wanted to be close to the Imperial Family.

Pissoir, noun

Pronounced pee swar (a as in father), accent on swar.

A public urinal which is usually situated on the street.

The one I saw had a swinging half door so it was clear whether there was space inside or not. The word derives from the French pisser meaning to urinate. For those of you who have been to Europe (especially France) this is probably a well-known term. However, I didn't expect it. Actually, the only one I saw was in Copenhagen but I did see a urinoar in Sweden. This concept is a good one from my point of view. However, the three women traveling with me wanted equal accommodations.

I discovered the concept of the pissoir on the Nyhavn in Copenhagen shortly after discovering the concept of a pint of Tuborg.

Disclaimer: The author, his peers, friends, and colleagues in no way take responsibility for crossed-eyed glances, slapped faces, rejected offers, or any draconian consequences as a result of using The Toad's Words.

Revised: August 27, 2000

Copyright by Michael L. VanBlaricum, 04 September 2000.

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