Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recline to Dine


Ruth from Traverse City called in to share two words that she came across, cubitus and decubitus.

Cubitus is a vein in an insect wing. In origin, it is indebted to the cubit, the part of the arm from the elbow downward. Decubitus was the manner or posture of lying on a bed. It came from a Latin word meaning to lie down.

Gary from Burt Lake called in a likely connection between the words. In ancient times, people reclined upon couches during a banquet, supporting themselves upon an elbow.

This is confirmed in a history book: “The prophet Amos is the first sacred writer to refer to the custom of "[stretching] themselves upon their couches" when eating (Amos 6:4). By the time of Jesus, the Roman custom of reclining on couches at supper (accumbendi) had been adopted in some Jewish circles. The Roman table and couches combined was called a triclinium. There were three couches which were located on the three sides of a square, the fourth side being left open, so that a servant could get on the inside to assist in serving the meal. The guest's position was to recline with the body's upper part resting on the left arm, and the head raised, and a cushion at the back, and the lower part of the body stretched out.” [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight ]

The Oxford English Dictionary had this example from J. Arbuthnot’s Tables of Ancient Coins, v. 134, 1727. “The Roman recumbent or (more properly) accumbent posture in eating was introduc'd after the first Punick War.”


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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