a highly elastic solid substance, light cream or dark amber in color, polymerized by the drying and coagulation of the latex or milky juice of rubber trees and plants.
Caoutchouc “rubber” is a borrowing from French, which adapted the term from obsolete Spanish cauchuc (modern caucho), and from here is where the history becomes obscure. Because the Indigenous languages of the Americas have overall not received enough documentation and analysis, linguists assign caoutchouc to multiple possible languages, and there is substantial disagreement among sources. One proposal is that caoutchouc derives from Tupi, which we learned about from the recent Word of the Day maringouin. Another possibility is an origin in Carib, a language of the Cariban family with several thousand speakers in northern coastal South America. Some reputable sources claim a derivation from Quechua, which we learned about from the recent Word of the Day pampero, but other sources eliminate that connection outright. Perhaps the only way to find the true, incontrovertible origin of caoutchouc is to support research in Indigenous languages, especially because 2022 marks the beginning of the UNESCO Indigenous Languages Decade. What we do know is that caoutchouc was first recorded circa 1770s.
Rubber was not exactly new. It had long been known to [Indigenous] South Americans …. Some rubber made its way to Europe, but mostly as a curiosity. In the 1700s, a French explorer brought the name “caoutchouc” from a local language .… The scientist Joseph Priestley bestowed its common name when he noticed it rubbed pencil marks off paper.
At five o’clock on the evening of the 10th of August they put into the island of Cocos. They there passed a “seringal.” This name is applied to a caoutchouc plantation, the caoutchouc being extracted from the “seringueira” tree …. It is said that, by negligence or bad management, the number of these trees is decreasing in the basin of the Amazon, but the forests of seringueira trees are still very considerable on the banks of the Madeira, Purus, and other tributaries.
(of rocks) containing iron and magnesium, with little or no silica.
Ultramafic “containing iron and magnesium” is a compound of the combining form ultra- “going beyond what is usual or ordinary” and the adjective mafic “relating to rocks rich in ferromagnesian materials.” Ultra- is borrowed from the Latin preposition ultrā “on the far side (of), beyond,” while mafic is a coinage based on magnesium and Latin ferrum “iron.” The ultimate origin of magnesium is the Ancient Greek phrase (hē) Magnēsía (líthos) “the stone of Magnesia,” in which Magnēsía denotes an uncertain location in either modern-day Greece or Turkey. From this same source, English inherits magnet and manganese. Latin ferrum is the source of modern Romance terms for “iron” (compare French fer and Spanish hierro) and is of obscure origin, though one hypothesis connects ferrum to English brass, and another connects it to a Semitic source akin to Hebrew barzel “iron.” Ultramafic was first recorded in English in the early 1940s.
Huddled up next to a small slice of muskeg, the cliffs glowed in a strange light. This was ultramafic rock, Birdman told us, placing his hand on a slab. Volcanic intrusions, brimming with iron that stained the rock red. This type of rock was as substantial as we could hope for. Our feet would stick to it even at a dangerous angle, but in places the weather was slowly crumbling the rock into tiny pebbles. We would have to be careful. We would have to respect the rock.
from the founding of the city (Rome, about 753 b.c.).
Ab urbe condita “from the founding of the city” is a phrase borrowed from Latin; spelled with the traditional macrons to indicate vowel length, the phrase is properly ab urbe conditā, literally “(in the year) from the founded city.” The preposition ab “away from, out of, since” is a common element in Latin-origin terms such as abduct (originally “to lead away”), abrupt (“to break away”), and absent (“to be away”), and its variant form abs- appears in abstain (“to hold away”) and abstract (“to draw away”). Urbe is the ablative (prepositional object) form of urbs “city,” which is also the root of urban and suburb (“under the city”), while conditā is the perfect participle of the verb condere “to build, conceal, compose,” the source of abscond, condiment, and condition. Ab urbe condita was first recorded in English in the early 17th century.
The dates we now use … [are] based on the calculations of a sixth-century monk named Dionysius Exiguus. He sought to find a replacement for the old Christian calendar which was based on the years since the beginning of the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, the last emperor to persecute Christians. He died in 311. Prior to that, dates had been calculated in the Roman Empire using Ab urbe condita (from the founding of the city), the date of the foundation of the city of Rome in 753 BC. Dates in antiquity were also calculated according to the year of the reign of an emperor and the dates of the two pro-consuls elected in Rome on an annual basis.
Basically every civilization has also had some kind of accumulating count of elapsed time. In the West, we’re celebrating the start of the year 2022, counting the years since a particular approximate determination of the birth of Jesus; we’re a quarter of the way through the year 5782 in the Jewish calendar (counting from the supposed date of creation) and not quite halfway through 1443 in the Islamic calendar (which has the most historically solid origin of the three, starting with the Prophet Muhammed’s move from Mecca to Medina). In the more distant past, the Romans dated events ab urbe condita, from the founding of the city, and the Maya had the Long Count which put a bit of a cyclical gloss on the steady accumulation of years.
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