The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

May 18, 2009


That ancient poet Homer (who said what a delicious aroma! It smells as though a town were being burnt down) coined an expression for the death-defying, mouth-twisted-down-at-the-ends tough-man grin that we now call sardonic: Sardonios. In his Greek, this meant Sardinian, where, it was said, condemned people liked to greet death with a smile, and so were given an extract from the Ranunculus Sardous, or Sardinian crowfoot, which resulted in that bitter grin. (Mohammed Diab's Lexicon of Orthopaedic Etymology makes a good read for this, and other weird facts.)

This was considered nonsense - Sardinia? Why? Etc. - but recently
I read that botanists from Cagliari University published a paper in the US Journal of Natural Products about the beneficial (and other) effects of the oneanthe fistulosa (the Sardinian water-celery). A somewhat different plant from the Homeric one, but with pretty much the same effect: a toxin in its extract causes facial muscles to droop, resulting in a grimace or rictus.

Good news for sufferers from
Bell's Palsy, I think.


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