Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Sandwich Is There

The headline above is part of the punch line of a hoary pun, of course:

Q. Why can’t you starve in the desert?
A. Because of the sand which is there.

Word parts denoting sand show up in some $2 words, and that makes them interesting.

The combining form ammo- comes from the Greek word ammos, sand. There is ammocoete, the larval form of various lampreys (sand + bed). Then there’s the ammodyte, a venomous snake (sand + burrow/dive). And there are plants and insects that live exclusively near sand; they are ammophilous (sand + loving).

The Latin formation aren-, as most people know, gave the name to the arena, a combat zone covered in sand to soak up blood and guts. Anything arenacious has the form or appearance of sand. Arenicolite is a worm-hole originally made in sand, then preserved in sandstone rock. And arenicolous (sand + dwelling) means the same as ammophilous.

The Greek form psamm- shows up in many scientific terms. Add psammophilous (sand + loving) to arenicolous and ammophilous. A psammophyte is a plant found in sandy soil. A psammosarcoma is a fleshy tumor with sand-like particles.

Sabul- owes its existence to the Latin sabulum, sand. “Darling, you look sabulous” is something you may say to a friend whose hair is covered in sand. Sabulosity is an obsolete term for sandy, and sabuline doubles as a synonym for sabulous.

Finally, the Latin saburr- (sand) is a close cousin of sabul-. Saburra is a foul granular matter deposited in the stomach. To saburrate is an obsolete verb meaning to place ballast in a ship. And in ancient medicine, saburration--applying heated sand to the body--was seen as salubrious.

Sidebar: Mr. Sandman

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