Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Definitions: Cape

(1) A headland with a big head. (A headland is a piece of land that sticks out into the ocean. An ocean, some ocean, any ocean — there's more than one these days.)

Anyhow, if you can imagine this thing, then imagine it with three sides. Then imagine those three sides surrounded by water, and therefore it's really suited only to one-way hiking.

But this headland thing is still attached to the rest of the world, which leaves you an escape route. The escape route is a good idea because you're probably a dork and wandered out there by accident, and might panic otherwise.

You should know enough to turn around and go back but maybe you don't.

Maybe you're a lemming.

A lemming is a small arctic rodent that is not really good for much at all, unless you have tiny feet and will settle for small furry moccasins made from the hides.

The word lemming comes from the old Norwegian phrase lemmti njgaard which means something like "small weird furry things that fall from the sky", first used around 1530 by Zeigler of Strasbourg, a geographer, who claimed to have seen a whole bunch of these things dropping like hailstones as he walked around one blustery day studying tussocky hummocks in a field.

However Ole Worm, a Danish physician and proto-scientist (who also went under the name of Olaus Wormius), disputed Zeigler's claims and dissected a bunch of lemmings to prove that they were really only ordinary, disgusting, hairy rodents, just like all the other rodents back in those days. (This was before hamsters were discovered. Hamsters are actually a lot of fun, and mostly not disgusting at all, and cute and stuff.)

Anyhow, then Ole hung his hacked-up rodents permanently in his private "Museum Wormianum", a collection chock full of many similarly disquieting discoveries. Go figure.

But old Ole Worm wasn't all about stale breath, death, and decay, and nails.

Nope. He was a mover.

In 1626 Mr Worm published his magnum opus "Fasti Danici", the original "Fast Dancing" (maybe we'd say "Fancy Dancing" today), and partied his way to near immortality as the Late Renaissance Boogie King until he was suddenly and utterly forgotten following a scandal involving sales of fake unicorn horn, after which he was sent away to a solitary cell on a bluff overlooking the sea.

Hey — here comes some serendipity. Watch for it.

Because Worm's cell was on the Grenen Headland near Skagen, out on the tip of the Jutland Peninsula, which you could also call a cape, since it's really big, way bigger than a headland, big enough to affect ocean currents, as capes do, but then this is all an uncertain matter of linguistic taste. At any rate, if there were lemmings leaping around out there, he'd see 'em on his turf, no matter what you call it.

Cape. Bluff. Headland. Peninsula. Whatever — people still call Florida a peninsula, after all.

Go figure.

(2) Or cape can be a fancy bathrobe-like tent worn by drama queens.

Drama Queen, incidentally, was the Danish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007.

It was in fact the first appearance of a solo drag act in Contest history.

How spooky is that? No capes either. (Or hamsters, at least not officially, but who knows what went on backstage?)

And it was all too late for our dear old Olaus Wormius who croaked about 300 years earlier, was stuffed and hung on a hook in a dark place where he could continue his penance unnoticed and unheard. In the dark, among the spiders. Without even a feathered cape for comfort.

Source: How to talk in the woods.