Monday 8 December 2014

Et In Amusement Arcades Ego

Note the arches
I'm terribly distressed to find that the above pun doesn't quite work. Arcadia - the Greek realm of shepherds and nymphs and rural loveliness - is, perhaps, named after Arkas, son of Zeus, who was allegedly its first king.

Shopping arcades and amusement arcades are from the Italian word for arch: arcata. The idea is that an avenue covered with arcati* is therefore an arcade. Hence the Burlington Arcade, amusement arcades and arcade games.

The reason I was wondering about this at all was that I was reading More Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith (which is unutterably beautiful). In it, he talks of how, when he's out in the countryside he doesn't feel all free and liberated and back-to-nature, as a Romantic Poet should. Instead he longs for the city.

I am incongruously beset by longings of which the Lake Poets never sang. Echoes and images of the abandoned city discompose my arcadizings; I hear, I the babbling of brooks, the atrocious sound of London gossip, and newsboys' voices in the cries of birds.

Aracadizings (meaning, I suppose, wanderings in Arcadia) is a beautiful word nonetheless. I intend to use it when I scamper off to the Lake District for Christmas. And I suppose it could as usefully be used to describe shopping off Piccadilly. It is not, though, in the OED, which does have the verb to arcade but that only means to furnish with, or form into, an arcade, something that I have no intention of doing.

Incidentally, Smith's book is the origin of the modern meaning of trivia, but I shall explain that some other time.

The Inky Fool was always writing on tombs

*I'm guessing this is the plural.


  1. The plural's "arcate". But you might only need a single (and singular) "arcata" to cover up a street, should an "arcata" be understood (as it sometimes is) as being not a single "arco" (arch) but a whole set of "archi" (arches).
    The kind of arcade in your picture we would nowadays call a "galleria", though.

  2. Hey Mark! Commenting just to say I just finished listening to Etymologicon today. Brilliant! Thanks for such a delightful book! Can't wait to check out this blog.