Saturday, December 30, 2006

English words with Venetian origins

As far as I can tell, the modern meanings and usage of the following English words, come from Venice proper:


Another country was named after Venice: Venezuela, and many islands and cities.

It's difficult to find specific orgins for the zeitgeist of contemporary meaning. But Venice was a contributor to the zeitgeist for: mask, carnivale, casino, bordello, opera, Palladian, sonata, toccata, piano, concerto, marionette, average, corporal, influenza, bank, banquet, pastel, Theorbo, imbroglio etc.

And, of course I'm leaving aside words that are still specific to Venice, and used only metaphorically otherwise: Gondola, Rialto, Doge, Magnifico, barcarole, etc.

A light, warm scarlet is "Venetian red".

Venice is indirectly mentioned in various languages, and in different ways, for its windows. In English we use both Venetian Windows and Venetian Blinds, for example.

"Polo" is a silly one: the name of the game is Tibetan, but the British used the nearest word they knew (from Marco Polo) to spell it.

Government bonds, deposit banks, disaster insurance and shared credit agreements more or less started in Venice. I'll try to track down words that crept our way (agio, or an exchange fee; cadastre, a registered property description) in those fields.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Alternating drips

There are especially Venetian patterns, which, still, are quite universal. When we're in Venice, they remind us of home. When we're home, they remind us of Venice. It's generally completely subconscious. When we peel back our conscious mind, and peek inside, we find it's the physical phenomena that resonates with us.

Water has many ways to attack a semi-transparent surface. It splashes, with big enough drops to drip along the glass surface, leaving streaks. It mists, and this water occasionally collects into small vertical ponds. Streaks usually break-up into many different-sized droplets, which dry at various rates. If this goes on for a while, you end up with something like this:

Venice has many distinctive fabric and window patterns reminiscent of this. The bullseye windows above take their shape partly from the old process of making flat glass in circles, partly from echoes of symbolic art, and partly because the overall arrangement looks like water's foggy, drippy, alternating pattern against glass.

Like all good patterns, I found this one in the shower. Probably time to change the plastic curtain.

Now, something familiar to anyone who has spent too much time in the shower: you start to see shapes. Faces, often. You'll see more faces if there are mirrors or photos of faces, or actual faces, nearby. This is the "shape echo" effect, where our eye starts to search for similar shapes in the field of view. In the above sketch, I can eek out a gargoyle:

And then you see another Venetian art pattern -- making sculpture out of the dripping spaces in the shadows. And sometimes, these get dripped upon themselves.