Cephalogenic

or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

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Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Fertility Treatment

Well, let's see. I was looking at the clevernesses on Must Have Cute when I saw this:

and I know the Japanese come up with some amazing things, but eggs with shaped yolks? How could this be?

With the Magic Egg Shaper, which, not to keep you in suspense, is a cluster of tubular wells with shaped inserts: you separate eggs, pour the whites into the tubes, insert the pegs to leave space for the yolks, dunk the whole thing into boiling water to cook the whites, wiggle out the pegs, pour in the liquid yolk, and boil the whole thing again to set the yolks. Slice 'em and you're done, and won't everybody be impressed?

At the bottom of the page was the usual "Other Products You May Like", one of which was this:

Nice! And no messy dirt to cope with. It's actually simpler than that. You mould a little slab of water-impregnated gel, sprinkle seeds on top, place it in the frame, and leave it to its own devices.

Here's a screen shot from the product's page, which is in French but which I can read:

"Graine" means "grain" or "seed", which, when you think about it, are nearly the same thing, except that "grain" can also mean a small, seed-sized particle of something inorganic such as salt or sand. But what caught my eye was the verb, "semez", obviously the imperative "[you] sow".

And in my usual geek's joy at discovering an etymology, I realized that "semez", its presumed parent verb being "semer", must be related to English "semen", which is to say "seed". And it is!

But there's more. We may have gotten "semen" from Latin, but the verb "to sow" comes from the Germanic tongues, who extracted it from Indo-European "se-". The Latin tongue took the word in another direction: "satum". As soon as you see that word, it is hard not to think of its appearance in English in the botanical name of the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. And "sative" is an English word, too: it means "sown: propagated by seed". There are other satives in the world of the flora: saffron comes from Crocus sativus (the masculine form of "sativa"), arugula is Eruca sativa, and the oats we eat are Avena sativa. (If you spend any time in a drugstore you may have noticed a product with the brand name Aveeno, which contains skin-calming oatmeal and which is obviously related to "avena", the "-e-" doubled so you'll pronounce it properly. The French word for "oatmeal", by the way, is "avoine".)

The only question I couldn't find a definite answer to was what exactly makes a sative a sative--how Oryza sativa, rice, might differ from some other kind of rice. The only thing I can think of is that sative plants are sown from seed as opposed to, say, propagated by stem grafting or through runners. I know that garden crocuses are planted as bulbs, so I figure saffron crocuses must be planted as sown seeds. If I'm wrong, it won't be the first time.

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