This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Nuts and Bolts: from sacred songs...downwards.

A psalm ( you say it sarm) is one of the one hundred and fifty songs that are published together as one of the books of the Bible.

Number 117 was my favourite as a child. Well, it has only two verses. It's also cheerful and snappy, and you can understand what it's going on about:

O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

For his merciful kindness is great towards us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

The word psalm has given us various other English words. A psalmist writes psalms (the Psalmist, with a capital P, is King David); psalmody is to do with singing psalms, or setting them to music; a psalter is a book with the psalms in it.

And then it's not much of a stretch to get to a psaltery, which is a sort of stringed instrument:

This very fed-up psaltery player comes from an illustration in the Gorleston psalter.

But what about a psalterium, which is..., guess...

Yes, you're quite right. Of course: you've guessed it.

psalterium is the third stomach of a cow.


Well, because of this:

Word To Use Today: one beginning with psal-. The song word comes from the Latin psalmus, from the Greek psalmos, song accompanied by a harp, from psallein, to play the harp. (This explains psaltery nicely, doesn't it.)

Psalterium comes from the Latin psaltērium, which means psalter, because a psalterium has many folds that look a bit like the pages of a book.

Here's a model of one which completely fails to illustrate this:

File:Didactic model of a bovine omasum and abomasum-FMVZ USP-26.jpeg
Model of the psalterium and abomasum of a cow. Photo by Wagner Souza e Silva, Museum of Veterinary Anatomy FMVZ USP The psalterium is the spiral bit.

Still, this photo of one of the leaflets inside the psalterium helps just a little:

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