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#1 2008-11-23 07:19:02

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

I first ran into the word “calamari” for “squid” when I was a kid, and I assumed that the “mari” part had to do with the dish’s marine origin. I was wrong – “calamari” is ultimately from Late Latin calamarium for “inkpot” or “pen-case” (in reference to the squid’s ink), and it’s just a coincidence that the ending evokes the sea. But I’ve often seen the word hyphenated or spelled as two, and that makes me wonder whether people are making the same eggcornish assumption I was. (On the other hand, “calamari” seems to be mentioned in “Asian” contexts about as often as “Italian” ones – maybe the two-word form looks more “non-Indo-European” to people.) The raw hit count is in the hundreds if you look at various spellings/punctuations. Examples:

I’d head out with friends for happy hour at Tantalum on the East Pacific Coast Highway, a tucked-away Asian fusion restaurant with great cala mari.
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/31 … aveleven31
[In any case, it made its way past the editors at the LA Times.]

The appetizer menu went beyond spring rolls and barbecue spare ribs. It included Cala-mari, crab ravioli and sauteed clams and mussels.
http://media.www.collegian.com/media/st … 6489.shtml
[The word isn’t split by a line-break – at least not in the online version.]

$8.75: Risotto Pescatore (Italian carnaroli rice with mussels, clams, shrimp and cala mari) —Pomodoro, San Francisco (above)
http://www.rimag.com/article/CA6578644.html

Sidewalk café calla Mari with plenty of lemon and a frosty San Miguel were pastime for us while the womenfolk went shopping at Sepu.
http://www.3973cds.com/3973cdsbio.htm
[I don’t know what to do with the capitalization either. Maybe this is an eggs Benedict sort of thing. Or are calla mari the edible flowers of the sea?]

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-11-23 07:20:20)

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#2 2008-11-24 18:28:50

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2137

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

An astounding variety of spellings for “calamari.” The middle “a” can be “i” or “e,” the final “i” can be “y.” And that’s just the vowels. I note also that the “l” can be “r,” the “r” an “l,” the “c” a “k.” In other words, {c|k}a{l|r}{a|e|i}ma{r|l}{i|y}. Either people who eat squid can’t spell, or people who can’t spell eat squid.

Speakers of Romance Languages would be most susceptible to the “cala-mari” confusion, I suppose, since they usually retain some cognate of the Latin word “mare” to refer to the sea. For myself, I don’t believe I made the “sea” association when I first heard “calamari.”

“Cala-mari” sounds a little bit polynesian, doesn’t it? Analogous to “mahi-mahi.”

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#3 2008-11-25 07:16:42

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

“Mahi mahi” is a great comparison, Kem—I was groping towards something like that with my “non-Indo-European” comment, but you nailed it.

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#4 2008-12-12 04:33:03

fishbait1
Eggcornista
From: Cambridge MA
Registered: 2006-09-13
Posts: 54
Website

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

Hi, Pat! I’m not sure that “calamarium,” “pen case,” refers to the squid’s ink, but rather to its “pen,” which is the common English name for the cuttlebone, or internal shell of the squid: “The squid has only a remnant of the molluscan shell, called the squid pen, that is used for reinforcement of the expanded and heavily muscled mantle cavity.” What I don’t know is whether this was called a “pen” in Latin. Any Latinists out there?

David

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#5 2008-12-12 05:15:26

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

Hi David,

Glad you’re still occasionally around. I wrote this post during a time when I was setting up a new computer and hadn’t yet figured out how to get the college library’s website to recognize my computer as an entity allowed to use the library’s subscription to the OED. So I jumped to a bunch of different online sources, including MWOnline:

Italian, plural of calamaro, calamaio, from Medieval Latin calamarium ink pot, from Latin calamus; from the inky substance the squid secretes

They derive the term from the noun calamarium “ink pot” and as a result they’re kinda constrained to look at the squid’s ink as the main feature that led to its name.

But the OED derives the name from the adjective calamarius “pertaining to a pen,” and thereby allows us to have it both ways:

[f. L. calamari-us pertaining to a calamus or pen; in Sp. calamar, F. calmar. From the pen-like internal shell (and perhaps also having reference to the ‘ink’ or black fluid, which these animals squirt out).]

They don’t come right out and say that calamus was used to refer to the “pen,” but they give that impression. I have a friend who’s a professor of Classics if we want to try and pursue this further. Do you want me to ask him?

According to the Wikipedia page on cuttlefish, squid don’t have cuttle-bones; I guess “pen” is the proper name, but I didn’t know that before I saw your post.

I like that the OED entry uses the very colloquial-sounding “squirt out.” That fussy register of their etymological notes would usually seem to demand something like “secrete” or “eject.”

Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-12-12 05:37:30)

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#6 2008-12-13 21:22:35

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

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

You can count me among those who associated the “mari” part with the sea.

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#7 2008-12-14 05:38:28

fishbait1
Eggcornista
From: Cambridge MA
Registered: 2006-09-13
Posts: 54
Website

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

Hi, Pat! It seems that “calamus” is primarily a reed and secondarily a pen, presumably one cut from a reed. From Wikipedia, the fons et origo of all human knowledge::

Etymology of the word Calamus

Cognates of the Latin word Calamus are found in both Greek (kalamos, meaning “reed”) and Sanskrit (kalama, meaning “reed” and “pen” as well as a sort of rice) — strong evidence that the word is older than all three languages and exists in their parent language, Proto-Indo European. The Arabic word qalam (meaning “pen”) is likely to have been borrowed from one of these languages in antiquity, or directly from Indo-European itself.

From the Latin root “calamus”, a number of modern English words arise:

* calamari, meaning “squid”, via the Latin calamarium, “ink horn” or “pen case”, as reeds were then used as writing implements; * calumet, another name for the Native American peace pipe, which was often made from a hollow reed; * shawm, a medieval oboe-like instrument (whose sound is produced by a vibrating reed mouthpiece); * chalumeau register, the lower notes of a clarinet’s range (another reed instrument).

I always took for granted that “calumet” is a native American word, especially because of the ”-et” ending, which appears so often in New England place names. Who knew?

Apparently the plant has erotic connotations, too, hence Whitman’s “Calamus” section in “Leaves of Grass.”

By all means, consult your classicist friend.

I only recently learned, from a nature program on TV, that squid and cuttlefish aren’t one and the same. The point of the program is that cuttlefish are really, really smart. With their eight arms they are great multi-taskers. They could write eight different letters at once but for the fact that the squids will never lend them a pen. . .

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#8 2011-12-29 22:37:52

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1179

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

The zoological term for the squid’s pen is a gladius, “sword”, so that doesn’t help much. I did find this early reference to meaning of the calamari.

Voyci ce qu’en dit Rondelet au 4.chapitre du 17. liure: Le Loligo magna des Latins, appellé Teuthos des Grecs, est ce poisson que nous appellons Calemar, pource qu’il ressemble unec escritoire. Ceux de Bayonne le nomment Cornet & le petit Loligo Corniches. Aussi a ce poisson la forme d’un cornet au gros bout d’un petit cousteau, qui par les deux autres bouts ressemble le caniuet & la plume, & est fourni d’ancre au dedás comme la Seiche.
Commentaires et annotations sur la sepmaine de la Création du Monde
By Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas

My translation:

Here’s what Rondelet has to say about this, from Ch. 4 of the 17th book: The Loligo magna of the Latins, called Teuthos by the Greeks, is the fish that we call Calemar, because it resembles a pen. In Bayonne it’s called the Cone, & the small Loligo is called a Corniche. This fish has the form of a cone (small horn) at the big end of a little knife, that by the two other ends resembles the tube and the feather, and is supplied with ink internally, like the cuttlefish.
From Commentaries and annotations on “The Week of the Creation of the World”, by Simon Goulart, 1581.

Seigneur du Bartas published his poem of theology and natural history in 1578, when those two fields were the same thing. The Guillaume Rondelet of this commentary was a famous ichthyologist of the mid-16th C. Admittedly, it’s difficult from the description provided to picture the squid’s form, but there is clear reference to his understanding of the origin of the name in the resemblance of the form of the whole animal to a writing instrument. We connect the pen-name to the shape of the internal skeleton. I don’t know whether it was Rondelet had it wrong, or whether the image connection to the skeleton came later. The resemblance of the squid’s gladius to a quill pen is evident in this image:


Note the use of the term “caniuet” for the ‘tube’ of the animal, referring to the business end of a quill pen (the tentacles at the other end correspond with the barbs of the feather). This is presumably a cognate of the “canut” of the Catalans. A common toast in the bar in Barcelona is “Salud i força al canut”, or “Your health, and strength to the tube”. There is a play on words here – the Catalonian purse in days of yore had the shape of a tube. Otherwise, the double entendre echoes fishbait’s remarks about the calamus. Similar connections can be made to that other pen. I mean the penne of Italy, arabbiata or otherwise.

Some of my colleagues (and admittedly, I) have thought it amusing to consider Saint Canut to be the patron saint of limnology, what with the story of holding back the tides and so on. It is believed among us that inclusion of a nod to S. Canut in the acknowledgments section will improve the chances of publication (search for “S. Canut for”, for example).

Last edited by David Bird (2011-12-30 02:58:02)

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#9 2011-12-30 23:28:21

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

Interesting—I guess if the squid’s pen is a “calamus,” the squid as a whole could be a “calamarius” or pen-case.

Reading 16th C French is fun—my first response to “est ce poisson que nous appellons Calemar, pource qu’il ressemble unec escritoire” was “The fish resembles a desk?” And it was nice to see “cousteau” appear in a marine context, even if it means the diminutive of “knife.”

Interesting too that the “Canut” spelling is so popular among limnologists. I usually see either “Cnut” or “Canute”; do you guys prefer the third-most popular option because the first two would give the game away?

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#10 2011-12-31 17:43:00

David Bird
Eggcornista
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1179

Re: Is there a "sea" in "cala mari"?

You’re right, Pat, I should have acknowledged the ambiguity in “escritoire” which I arbitrarily translated as a pen. I’ve come around completely to the idea that the squid was pictured as a kind of pen case. This dictionary from 1882 agrees with you that a calamarium was an _étui_, “case, sheath, box” where quills or reeds and ink were stored. So each of the arms would represent a quill, I guess. This is still not completely clear. The beast seems to have at least three ends in this description.

I didn’t notice that Saint Cnut’s yang could so easily be anagrammatized to the yin. That’s giving me goof bumps. I’ll discuss this with other cult members.

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