Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oh, Spiss!



The letter sequence –spiss– is rarely used, but it is consistent in its meaning when it appears. It comes from a Latin word that means thick.

Inspissation is used in medicine to designate the formation of plugs in ducts—plugs formed by a thickened viscid material. It is a factor in cystic fibrosis, for instance. Here is a snippet from a medical journal: “Cystic fibrosis is characterized by the elaboration of abnormal, thick, tenacious mucus resulting in obstructive disease in sites such as the lung and pancreas.” [Inspissation of pancreatic zymogen material in cystic fibrosis, by Tucker JA, Spock A, Spicer SS, et al.]

Inspissation is also used in the culinary arts and in brewing. It is a thickening process that may be accomplished by boiling, evaporating, condensing, or adding a bonding agent. Here is an example from Cook’s Second Voyage: “I now made three puncheons of beer, of the inspissated juice of malt. The proportion I made use of was about ten barrels of water to one of juice. Fifteen of the nineteen half barrels of the inspissated juice we had on board, was produced from wort that was hopped before inspissated.”

Here are some other words using the letter sequence.
  • spiscious: of a thick consistency
  • spiss: thick, dense, compact
  • spissated: thickened
  • spissed:  thickened, condensed
  • spissitude:  thickness, density, compactness
  • spissy: dense, compact

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

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