or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Waxy Buildup

Over on my other blog I mentioned some odd wax candle/sculptures by a company called Cire Trudon, "cire" being the French word for "wax".

You may have guessed that the French word is descended from Latin, especially if you know the patently Latinate word "cerumen", which we will get to in a minute. The Latin from which "cire" is descended is "cera", which also means "wax". "Cire" exists in English, as "ciré", a description for a fabric (since many fashion words in English are French) which is given a glossy sheen with wax. If you play around with Latinate sounds you may come up with "cereus", which is also an English word; it is a genus of cactus, named from its tall, slender shape which gives it the appearance of a candle, and also a night-blooming flower. (Some species of cereus bear fruit called pitaya or pitahaya, which, it so happens, I have also written about on my other blog.)

"Cerumen", from Greek "keroumenos", "made of wax", is something most of us deal with on a daily basis: ear wax.

There is one other rather horrifying English "-cire" or "-cere" word you may have heard of: "adipocere", from "adiposus", "fat". It is also known as "grave wax", and it is formed when the fat in a corpse, in the absence of aerobic bacteria to decompose it, saponifies, which is to say turns into a waxy, soapy substance. The most famous case is the Soap Lady, which you could see, if you had a mind to, at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.


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