it had to happen…
February 10, 2007
well, it had to happen. for the first time since i started blogging again I missed a day. daily salad had been as saladly reliable as saladin, but now its no more. worse, it’s late and I have nothing to offer other than pithy remarks. hmm…pithy…pith is a good word.
pith-n originally refers to the soft internal tissue of a plant and is attested all the way back in Olde English. It is also the white spongy lining of citrus fruits. pith later comes to be used as a synonym for marrow, “the substance occupying the spinal canal.” Those crazy Irish use the term to mean the soft inner part of a loaf of bread. here’s what James Joyce has to say about that: 1922 J. JOYCE Ulysses II. 166 Wine soaked and softened rolled pith of bread mustard a moment mawkish cheese.
we most commonly use the term in its abstract sense, “The innermost or central part of a thing; the essential or vital part; the spirit or essence; the core, the nub.” The OED actually has a quote for this from Old English, but it does not appear to have entered common currency until the 15th century. We also frequently use the term to mean, “Force, power, energy (of words, speech, etc.). In later use chiefly: the quality of conveying meaning forcibly through brevity of expression; succinctness, conciseness.”
thankfully, to the delight of salad readers everywhere, there’s also a pith-v. The best definition is, of course, now obs. and rare: To supply a person with strength or courage. The OED has one quote from the 16th century. there’s also a farming definition that refers to piercing the spine or brainstem of an animal, and a definition rendered, “To remove or extract the pith from.” this can also be used figuratively.
longer post to come tomorrow, when i’m back in new york city, new york.