Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Apoplex

Notice the missing y. This is not a typographical error

From Moll Flanders, which was, I currently believe, serialized in 1722 in The London Post and The Kentish Post, and which does not appear in the OED between the Locke example and the Coleridge one. The word appears in the part of the story where everybody (except, perhaps, the youngest sister in "August: Osage County") wishes this woman could begin her life all over again.

I confess I was moved to pity him when I spoke it, for he turned pale as death, and stood mute as one thunderstruck, and once or twice I thought he would have fainted; in short, it put him in a fit something like an apoplex; he trembled, a sweat or dew ran off his face, and yet he was cold as a clod, so that I was forced to run and fetch something for him to keep life in him.

I imagine a linguistics historian could explain why this word is y-less in this instance, as well as in the few other ones listed by the OED dating to between 1533 and 1790. The word is from the French, apoplexie, derived from Greek, and is cited as early as c. 1386, in Chaucer's Nun's Priest tale. (In Nouveau Larousse Illustré, there is, alas, no diagram of a person in the throes of apoplexie, but the definition extends more than half a column.) Apoplexy was (is?) used in falconry, specifically to refer to an illness or disease in hawks.

In any case, this is a y word that is, obviously, not one, but my expectation of the y makes it eligible for inclusion. It is, I suppose, a variation on a y word.

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