Wednesday, March 14, 2012


A Rare Latin Word

Antonio Beccadelli (1394–1471), The Hermaphrodite. Edited and Translated by Holt Parker (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 229 (editor's note on II.x = The Punishment of Hell That Ursa Gives the Author While He Is Still Alive, line 5 "Nam sibi merdivomum stridit resonatque foramen"):
merdivomus: the nonce-word seems to be Beccadelli's creation; not in Du Cange or the standard dictionaries and corpora of medieval Latin.
The compound adjective means "vomiting excrement". M., "'Cinq Lettres', ou Six?" Revue du Moyen Age Latin 36 (1980) 51-52, lists derivatives and compounds of Latin merda, but merdivomus is not on the list.

The same word also occurs in an invective directed against Beccadelli by Pier Candido Decembrio (1399-1477), entitled In Anthonium Siculum Panormitanum et Guarinum eius preceptorem, dated sometime after June 1431:
Sic ego tabellarius, tu priaparius; ego litteras et calamos, tu pennes queris et mentulas, ego ceram et sigillum gestito, tu foramina merdivoma scrutaris et fetes...
See Ferdinando Gabotto, "L'attività Politica di Pier Candido Decembrio," Giornale Ligustico di Archeologia, Storia e Letteratura 20 (1893) 161-199, 241-270 (where the quotation appears in note 58, on page 194). Surely Decembrio here is alluding to Beccadelli's obscene epigram (in both passages the adjective modifies foramen = orifice).

A Greek equivalent, κοπριήμετος, occurs in Hippocrates, Epidemics 2.1.9, and some late Latin medical works translate this as merdivomus.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


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