This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Spot the Frippet: cilice.

The word cilice, pronounced silliss, comes from Cilicia, which was an ancient country in the bottom right-hand corner of Turkey:

Location of Cilicia

And what do we associate with Cilicia?

Well, not a lot, to be quite honest, but it was invaded again and again, by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the perhaps it's not surprising that a cilice doesn't reflect a very comfortable view of life.

cilice is a hair shirt. 

Now, I never could understand why hermits wore hair shirts, which seemed to me to occupy the luxury end of the lingerie market, but the hair in question comes from a goat (though not a cashmere-type goat) and is apparently very prickly and uncomfortable. I think the principle might be that suffering now is better than suffering later...or something...


Spot a hair shirt? you may be saying. How can anyone do that?

Well, it's true that hair shirts are designed to be worn invisibly as underwear, and also that their use has largely (I believe) died out. Even the more radical fashion designers, who think nothing of forcing a model into six-inch heels, ten-inch leather belts, and a four-foot-wide ruff, don't seem to have got as far as reintroducing the hair shirt. 


But still, there are modern equivalents to the cilice everywhere. 

The glass of wheat-grass juice, for example.

The cold shower.

Rye crispbread.

It's all rather puzzling, but perhaps these modern cilices fulfill some deep psychological need.

Or, I don't know...

...perhaps people are just nuts.

File:Carter - Syrian Goat.jpg
Engraved by W. Holl after John Carter. (A Syrian goat was the closest I could get.)

Spot the frippet: cilice. This word comes from the Old English cilic, from the Latin cilicium, shirt made from Cilician goat's hair.


  1. Actually quite fond of RYE crisp bread but I take your point! Cilice sounds like a cross between Cecilia and Phyllis.

    1. It does, doesn't it. It would make rather a good name for a very fretful baby. It would be no worse than being called Hilda, which means battleaxe, would it.
      Cilice...yep. It could catch on.