Sunday, May 27, 2007



Adrian Morgan, Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Mythology & Cultural Oddities of This Strange Association (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 1995), pp. 11-12:
Puffballs were sometimes called in English puckfists, a term that meant "fairy fart." .... They were also called fistballs, or bullfists, which again referred to farting. Continental Europe has long associated the puffball with anal evacuations: in ancient Rome it was crepitus lupi; in parts of Spain it was pedo de lobo; in France, pet de loup. All of these names mean "fart of the wolf," referring to noisy eruptions. In ancient Greece, the puffball was called lycoperdon, in Spain cuesco de lobo, in France vesse de loup, meaning fart of the wolf--defining here the "silent-but-deadly" variety. Another English title, recorded in 1597 by the herbalist John Gerard, was Woolfes Fistes, again meaning (silent) fart of the wolf, a creature with a longstanding reputation for magic and malevolence.
I transcribed this from Google Book Search (which gives only a limited preview), and I haven't seen the actual book. I don't find lycoperdon in Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon or the combination crepitus lupi in Thesaurus Linguae Latinae s.v. crepitus. Despite Morgan's words "in ancient Greece" and "in ancient Rome," I suspect that lycoperdon and crepitus lupi are both modern coinages, scholarly renderings of a vernacular name (cf. Melanchthon = Schwarzerde and Xylander = Holtzmann). To Morgan's list add Italian vescia di lupo and Portuguese bufa de lobo.

Related post: Noctes Scatologicae: Coprophagy (puffballs are edible).

References for my own use:

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