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#1 2011-01-08 15:07:54

jorkel
Eggcornista
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Death cup/cap

Just thought it was interesting that the poisonous mushroom Amanita phalloides is known familiarly as either death cap or death cup. (After all, what is a cap turned upside down but a cup?) Surely one of the two names must have spawned the other, but which? One route which makes sense to me is this: someone described its shape as a cup because it appeared more bowed than other mushroom varieties, but when people see mushrooms in the wild it is the cap they notice first, so cup got changed to cap. Just a guess.

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#2 2011-01-08 15:51:48

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 827

Re: Death cup/cap

Joe, I think the cup refers to the cuplike structure that the fruiting body emerges from, called the volva, but I have no great expertise – just enough to collect only those mushrooms which I’m certain won’t harm me.

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#3 2011-01-08 18:29:35

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2160

Re: Death cup/cap

Interesting. Modern texts seem to prefer “Death Cap.” But Google Books shows that in the 1890s Amanita phalloides was more commonly called “Death Cup.”

It could be the large volva on this mushroom that triggers the “death cup” image. But “cup of death” is an old, old metaphor (think Socrates) that might suggest itself without a physical analogy to dinnerware. We have a parallel with some cousins to Amanita phalloides that bear the common name “Destroying Angels,” evocations of another standard image of destruction (“Destroying angel” is an old Hebrew term. Cf. I Chronicles 21:15.). Do the ghostly white Destroying Angels look like angels? Perhaps.

Last edited by kem (2011-01-08 18:38:39)

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