or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, February 07, 2009


I have been remiss, haven't I? Sorry. My computer's desktop is scattered with at least five different things that I haven't even bothered to finish. I don't know what the deal is. I've been writing my other blog a lot, though, so you could always go read that.

Yesterday I got a sample in the mail, courtesy of Patty from the Perfume Posse. Its name is Péché Cardinal, which is French for "cardinal sin", and although I haven't had a chance to smell it yet, I know that it is based on the peach, which makes the scent's name one of the best visual puns in the fragrance business, because the French word for "peach" is "pêche". (They're pronounced completely differently: "péché" has two syllables, and the accent marks indicate that the vowels aren't the same. But they look like the same word!)

"Peach" is, it will not surprise you, descended directly from the French word, or rather an older version of it: Old French "pesche". (This will particularly not surprise you if you have a long memory, since I wrote about "peach" a few years back in the context of the word "impeach". I'm going to repeat myself now so you don't have to go back and read that if you don't want to.) In French, as I have mentioned before, a circumflex accent--the little hat over a letter--usually indicates a vanished "-s-", and so "pesche" became "pêche". "Pesche" in turn came from Middle Latin "pesca", from Late Latin "pessica", from "persica", from an abbreviation of Latin "malum Persicum", "Persian apple", with "malum" being the genitive (I think) of "malus", "apple".

"Malus" may look familiar if you read the ingredient list of cheap candy: malic acid is a sour flavouring derived from the apple. This in turn may also suggest another word: "malice". "Malus" and "malice" are unrelated, but the Latin word for "evil" was "malum", the source of "malice" (and lots of other words in English that start with "mal-"), and the plural of both was "mala". Is it any wonder, then, that the apple, with its pun-ready Latin name, was used as a symbol for evil in translations of the Garden of Eden fable?

"Péché", on the other hand is ultimately derived from Latin "peccare", "to sin".


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