Daily Archives: May 29, 2020

utricide

Imagine! Imagine you have a dream in which you are beset by Schrödinger’s cat, or multiple cats of Schrödinger, and you draw your sword and slay one or the other or both, or maybe all three. Or… when you check to see the damage… actually it wasn’t cats. Um, wineskins, perhaps?

Well, many of us have been laid low on occasion by the contents of a wineskin (or liquids that could have been contained in a wineskin but instead went into our stomachs, very similar in shape). I suppose a few have experienced stabbing pains in consequence. And sour dreams are made of these…

The thing about dreams is that nothing bears up under inspection; if you try to read some text, it changes as you go, and if you try to see what you have drawn your sword on, well… unlike Schrödinger’s quantum states, which are resolved on inspection, the details of dreams have the impression of resolution only until you inspect them, at which point they become indeterminate.

I’m sorry, were you saying something? What? Oh, huh. Well, here’s the thing. Utricide is a real word, though not often used. Ever. Maybe twice, as far as we (and Oxford) know. What does it mean? We can see the -cide and we know that it can refer to the act of killing (as in homicide) or to the killer (as in parricide), though the latter is not so current. But utri-?

A quick check tells us that it’s from Latin uter, which another quick check tells us means ‘either’ or ‘both’. Um, so you kill either one, or both? Wait, which do you kill? Well, Latin for ‘which’ can also be uter.

Ugh, this is utter madness! Wait, it’s OK: there’s another Latin uter, from a different source, and it means ‘wineskin’, as in utriform.

But who the heck would kill a wineskin?

Let’s turn to William Adlington’s translation of The Golden Ass by Apuleius:

Then you
beinge well tippled, & deceaved by the obscuritie of the
night, drewe out your swoorde couragiously, like furious
Aiax, and killed, (not as he did the whole hearde of
beastes) but three blowen skinnes, to the intent that I
after the slaughter of so many enemies without effusion
of bloud, might embrace and kisse not an homicide but
an Utricide: thus when I was pleasantly mocked and
taunted by Fotis, I said unto her: Verely, now may I
for this atchieved enterprise be numbred, as Hercules
who by his valiaunt prowesse perfourmed the twelve
notable labours, as Gerion with three bodies, and as
Cerberus with three heades. For I have slaine three
blowen geate skinnes . . .

Yes, an utricide is a murderer of wine skins.

But given that the slaughter arises from a confusion of the distinction between fantasy (or dream) and reality, and its result is a collapse of the duality into a decided single reality, we might well also say that an utricide is someone who murders either/or. Someone who ends duality and reveals the underlying unity of reality.

Well, you go off and ponder that. I have a bottle to kill.