Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Being a Phagist.

As you will be aware, if you are a regular reader, I am a word-lover. I just looked up the dictionary to see if there was a word to describe people like myself. I should have thought about it for a moment. It is, of course - logophile. Believe it or not, there is also such a thing as a logophobe, if the presence of a dictionary definition indicates the physical reality rather than just word theory. A logophobe is someone with a fear of words or of talking, not a person who simply dislikes words however, so it is not a true antonym of logophile. I don’t know if there is a word for word-haters, is there?

I have never actually met a logophobe, and I don’t know what I would do with one if I did, but I have long been puzzled by the antipathy that some people have about the word ‘foodie.’ It is silly to ‘hate’ words. Hate guns, or your job, or leftover stew, if you are so inclined, for these things may do you harm. If you are averse to the word ‘foodie’, then simply don’t use it – or better still – invent another word to describe whatever image the word conjures up. I would love someone to do this.

Wouldn’t it be a buzz to invent a new word and eventually find it entered in the Oxford English Dictionary? Especially if it eventally entered the common language. One writer who got to the first post was responsible for the article from the English newspaper, the Daily News, in 1881, which I quoted from in last week’s post on fake cheese. He (for at that time it was most surely a ‘he’) noted in the story that ‘Ryophagy is not, on the whole, a healthy practice.’   Never having come across the word before, I looked it up. The OED says:

Rypophagy: the eating of filth, esp. Excrement. From the Greek word for dirt, filth.

The sole, single, and only reference to the use of this word in the OED is from the Daily News story of June 17, 1881, so the author did not manage to grab the attention of others who write on filth-eating. Of course, the OED, bless its wonderful pages, is not infallible, so perhaps there are in fact other examples of ‘rypophaghy’ in the literature. If you know of any, please let us know.

There are many other words with the suffixes ‘phagous’, -phagist, and ‘-phagy’in the dictionary, and I thought we might have a little fun with them today. The suffix ‘-phagous’ when added to a noun indicates ‘feeds on (the first element)’. Presumably then, one who eats filth can be described as ‘rypophagous.’

Many, perhaps most, of the examples of words ending in –phagous are used exclusively by zoologists to describe the eating habits of various animals, but it strikes me that we have an opportunity to use them to describe our own food preferences in exquisitely efficient detail.

I would be tempted to describe myself as pantophagous (eating all kinds or a great variety of food), but if this were literally true, it would mean I would also be anthropophagus (human-eating), myrmegophagous (feeding on ants), and phthirophagous (louse-eating.) I guess, in view of the stance I took in my story on cheese mites I may well have eaten ants and lice in my life, but I protest that I have not done it in knowingly. I am as sure as it is possible to be that I have never eaten human flesh.

I confess that at various times I am artophagous (bread), ichthyophagous (fish), phyllophagous (leaves),  meliphagous (honey) , galactophagous (milk), and ostreophagous (oysters.) I am also sarcophagous. Yes, sarcophagous is also an adjective. It means ‘flesh-eating’, and it references the noun which we are all familiar with as meaning a stone coffin. The word (I love this) comes from ‘a kind of stone reputed among the Greeks to have the property of consuming the flesh of dead bodies deposited in it, and consequently used for coffins.’

I have, on rare occasions, eaten raw meat (steak tartare anyone?), which makes me omophagous (raw flesh), but I regret to have to say that I have never had the opportunity to be opiophagous (snake-eating), or saurophagous (reptiles.) It is good to know that there are still many new food experiences ahead of me.

What sort of phagist are you?

Recipe for the Day.

Today’s recipe is for those of us who are mycophageous (eat fungi) and have a large grocery budget.

Truffles Ragout.
For a ragout the tubers should be well washed, and afterwards soaked in oil, then cut in slices a quarter of an inch thick; place in stew-pan, with oil or butter, salt and pepper, and a little white wine. When cooked bind the whole together with the yolk of an egg.
One Hundred Mushroom Receipts, (Cleveland, 1899), by Kate Sergeant.

Quotation for the Day.

There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable, and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.. Mark Twain.


Piet said...

In the U.S., certain snakes used to be hunted and sold as food, particularly the (poisonous) rattlesnake. I've tasted it, so I suppose I have been (I emphasize the past participle here) optophagous. You haven't missed much. As the saying goes, it tastes a lot like chicken.

Anonymous said...

How about "mysologist" for "word hater"?


Sometimes Kate said...

If you take the love of words to a, in my opinion, totally reasonable extreme, you are a logolept.

The Old Foodie said...

mysologist and logolept. Love them both. Thanks Sandra and Kate!