Tuesday 25 October 2011

Sacralgia and Kippers

File:Viles Bodies.jpgVile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh has this to say about kippers:

Adam ate some breakfast. No kipper, he reflected, is ever as good as it smells; how this too earthly contact with flesh and bone spoiled the first happy exhilaration; if only one could live, as Jehovah was said to have done, on the savour of burnt offerings.

Now, if you want to make a great smell for your deity what you need is burnt bone, and apparently (I've never sacrificed anyone myself) the best bone to do this with is the os sacrum, the sacred bone. It's at the bottom of your spine and the Romans believed that it was the part that the gods really liked. That's why it's called the sacrum to this very day.

If you have a pain in your sacrum, it's called sacralgia. What I like about this is that, etymologically, sacralgia means sacred pain, but really it means a right pain in the arse. But if you told somebody that they were being a sacralgia, they would never realise.

This makes sacralgia a very useful word.

The Inky Fool regrets his choice of restaurant.


  1. I've been trying to find a word. I'm fairly sure that it exists, but I've not been able to find it in any dictionaries. I'm not really sure how it's spelled, but I'm fairly confident that it's gesthesthanes or gestestenes or something along those lines. The meaning that I remember: rays of light as they are filtered through tree branches. Is this an actual word, or am I crazy?

  2. Does that mean that there is such a word as 'sacralagiac'? There must be as there seems to be quite a few about! BTW i have a good friend who is the manager at the local Waterstones, the feelers have been put out but if there is no freebie forthcoming a copy will be purchased with a healthy staff discount..........

    Laurie -

  3. So if someone is being sacriligous, they are being a pain in the backside.

  4. Are you sure it's not 'sacralgia'? There is, too, a condition called 'proctalgia fugax', which is a fleeting pain in a very specific part of the backside. I was told that by a Naval Doctor (a very specialised specialist).

  5. Mr Pilitoe, you are very right, and I am very embarrassed. I have gone through removing the stray A that I inserted for some unknown and illiterate reason.

    Abby, I've been searching and I have not found. I went through every gest- and every jest- in the OED and it wasn't there. Was the word, perhaps, in another language?