Friday, 5 November 2010

No Tigers in the Tigris

I spent yesterday evening pottering about a beautiful exhibition on the tiger in Asian art, and wondering to myself whether the River Tigris in Iraq got its name because it was filled with aquatic tigers. I was miserable when I discovered that there is no connection whatsoever.

However, the Tigris (perhaps arrow) and the Euphrates (perhaps good ford) do mark the borders of Mesopotamia, which literally means between the rivers; just as a hippo-potamus is literally a horse-in-a-river; just as the name Philip or Philippos or Philos-Hippos literally means lover of horses; just as Phil-adelphia means brotherly love; just as the Adelphi in London was constructed by four brothers: John, Robert, James and William Adam.

None of which has anything to do with Delphi, which was named after dolphins.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears
Then imitate the action of a tiger.

The Inky Fool had let his garden get out of control.


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  2. I, too, remembered St. Crispin's day late. Didn't feast my neighbors. Next year.

  3. I had entirely forgotten that it was St Crispin's day. The quotation is a happy coincidence (although I think St Crispin's day is a different battle).

    More fool me, more sage you.