Monday, April 21, 2008


Visuriency, Tacturiency, and Hirquitalliency

Thomas Urquhart, The Jewel (Ekskybalauron) (1652):
Thus for a while their eloquence was mute, and all they spoke was but with the eye and hand, yet so persuasively, by vertue of the intermutual unlimitedness of their visotactil sensation, that each part and portion of the persons of either was obvious to the sight and touch of the persons of both; the visuriency of either, by ushering the tacturiency of both, made the attrectation of both consequent to the inspection of either. Here it was that passion was active, and action passive, they both being overcome by other, and each the conquerour. To speak of her hirquitalliency at the elevation of the pole of his microcosme, or of his luxuriousness to erect a gnomon on her horizontal dyal, will perhaps be held by some to be expressions full of obscoeness, and offensive to the purity of chaste ears; yet seeing she was to be his wife, and that she could not be such without consummation of marriage, which signifieth the same thing in effect, it may be thought, as definitiones logicae verificantur in rebus, if the exerced act be lawful, that the diction which suppones it, can be of no greater transgression, unless you would call it a solaecisme, or that vice in grammar which imports the copulating of the masculine with the feminine gender.
This is a charming bit of erotica. Visuriency (the desire to see) and tacturiency (the desire to touch) are easy to understand, although the Latin desiderative verbs from which they supposedly come (visurio and tacturio) are unattested. Hirquitalliency is more difficult. Dr. John B. Corbett glosses hirquitalliency as "delighted shouts" (i.e. cries of delight). Let's examine the evidence.

The Oxford English Dictionary s.v. hirquitalliency provides an etymology ("f. L. hirquitallī-re (of infants) to acquire a strong voice (f. hircus he-goat) + -ENCY") and the citation from Urquhart but no definition, at least not that I could find online. It simply says "Obs. nonce-wd."

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy Part. 3, Sect. 2, Memb. 2, Subs. 1, uses the Latin verb hirquitallire:
But most part, I say, such are aptest to love that are young and lusty, live at ease, stall-fed, free from cares, like cattle in a rank pasture, idle and solitary persons, they must needs hirquitallire, as Guastavinius recites out of Censorinus.
J.B. Bamborough and Martin Dodsworth, in their commentary on this passage from Burton, state:
According to Censorinus, De die natali 14.7 ((1593), p. 21), hirquitallire ('to resemble a billygoat (hircus)') was used of boys whose voices had begun to break. Guastavinius (Commentarii, sect. 4, probl. 13, p. 182) notes this and alleges an alternative meaning 'to become sexually active'; since he is commenting on the Aristotelian Problem 4.11, why men's and women's flesh begins to smell at puberty, this is his preferred meaning, and given the context will have been uppermost in Burton's mind.
Here is Censorinus, in the midst of a discussion on the periods or stages of human life:
Yet in the second period or the beginning of the third, the voice becomes rougher and uneven, what Aristotle calls τραγίζειν, and our ancestors called hirquitallire, and people think that those at this stage are called hirquitalli for the following reason, because then the body begins to smell like a he-goat [hircus].

tamen in secunda hebdomade vel incipiente tertia vocem crassiorem et inaequabilem fieri, quod Aristoteles appellat τραγίζειν, antiqui nostri hirquitallire, et ipsos inde putant hirquitallos appellari, quod tum corpus hircum olere incipiat.
As Latin hirquitallire comes from hircus (he-goat), so Greek τραγίζειν comes from τράγος (he-goat). Cf. Pauli Festus:
Boys who are first approaching puberty are hirquitalli, so called from the lecherousness of he-goats.

hirquitalli pueri primum ad virilitatem accedentes, a libidine scilicet hircorum dicti.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

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