Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Ramada, Bower, Pergola, Trellis, Sukkah

This week's theme for A.Word.A.Day is words borrowed from Spanish. Yesterday's word was
ramada (ruh-MAH-duh) noun

  An open shelter roofed with branches.

[From Spanish, from rama (branch), from Vulgar Latin rama, from Latin ramus (branch). The word "ramify" branches out from the same root "ramus".]
In my ignorance, I first thought that English bower might be a sort of calque for Spanish ramada (or vice versa), but etymologically bower has nothing to do with bough, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. bower:
O.E. bur "room, hut, dwelling," from P.Gmc. *buraz (cf. Ger. bauer "birdcage"), from base *bu- "to dwell." Modern spelling developed after 1350. Sense of "leafy arbor" (place closed in by trees) is first attested 1523. Hence, too, Australia's bower-bird (1847). New York City's Bowery (1787) was originally a homestead farm (Du. bowerij); used attributively for its squalor since 1840.
Cousin to the ramada is the pergola, which The American Heritage Dictionary defines as
An arbor or passageway with a roof of trelliswork on which climbing plants are trained to grow.
Pergola is originally an Italian word, itself derived from Latin pergula, one of whose meanings (Lewis and Short 5) is "vine-arbor." Horace refers to a vine-arbor in Ode 1.38 (tr. John Addington Symonds):
Boy, I dislike this Persian frippery,
These linden-twisted chaplets please not me.
Pray take no pains to find for me where grows
  The latest lingering rose.

Twine not the myrtle spray with studious care,
Plain myrtle leaves we both may fitly wear, --
Thou as my page, I, as I sip my wine
  Beneath my thick-leaved vine.

Persicos odi, puer, apparatus;
displicent nexae philyra coronae;
mitte sectari rosa quo locorum
  sera moretur.

Simplici myrto nihil adlabores
sedulus curo; neque te ministrum
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta
  vite bibentem.
Nisbet and Hubbard translate arta vite as "my shady pergola." In their note they say:
Such bowers of vines were and remain popular in Mediterranean lands; cf. Gow on Theocr. 15.119, copa 8 'triclia umbrosis frigida harundinibus', Plin. nat. 14.11 'una vitis Romae in Liviae porticibus subdiales inambulationes umbrosis pergulis opacat', Colum. 11..32, Plin. epist. 5.6.36 with Sherwin-White's note, D.-S. 4.392f.
The phrase from the copa cited by Nisbet and Hubbard (triclia umbrosis frigida harundinibus = bower cool with shady reeds) contains the word triclia, sometimes spelled trichlia. Some authorities derive English trellis from Latin trichlia.

The Jewish festival of Sukkot (huts or booths) intrigues me. I've never seen a sukkah, but apparently the roof is supposed to be thatched with fronds or branches (schach) that provide more shade than sun, yet through which you can see the stars at night.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?