Saturday, August 4, 2007

Gargling Gargoyles (correction)

An astute reader just pointed out that the figures on the American Standard Building (see previous post) are not actually gargoyles. A gargoyle, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a grotesque spout, representing some animal or human figure, projecting from the gutter of a building (esp. in Gothic architecture), in order to carry the rain-water clear of the walls." I was shocked to have made such an error, although it's an extenuating circumstance that according to the OED, "gargoyle" has come by extension to mean "A projection resembling a gargoyle." However, when using the term re architecture, I think it's better to keep to the original sense. As a philologist (which is what I earned my Ph.D. in lo, these many years ago), I was fascinated to read the derivation: "OF. gargouille (also gargoule, gargole, recorded in 13th c.) = Sp. gargola; app. a special sense of gargouille throat (cf. GARGIL1, GARGLE v.), from the water passing through the mouths of the figures." So gargoyles and gargling have the same root! And now I will never forget that gargoyles spit.

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