Daily Archives: March 20, 2022

vernality

Some people are so desperate for a bit of the green, they will do whatever it takes. It doesn’t matter, night or day: they’re looking to be in the clover.

That’s the essence of venality – seeking money, literally being “for sale” (from Latin venum, ‘for sale, sold’) – but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about vernality. We are back in our salad days.

Which I could mean in the Cleopatra sense: “My salad days, When I was green in judgment: cold in blood.” But while it is both green and cold here right now, what I mean is just that it is the springtime of our lives, yet again, and also everything is becoming springy, verdant, salad-like. Vernal. Exuding vernality. No longer hibernal – which means wintry (from hibernalis), but Hibernian.

Which is, if you don’t know, being of, related to, or about Hibernia, which is Ireland – and we’re surely at the time of year when that’s peaking. Why, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was just today itself in Toronto (yes, three days late, but it has to be on a Sunday). 

And yes, if you’re wondering, Hibernia does have some connection to hibernal. They’re not related in origin (the Greek Ἰέρνη Iérē, source of the Latin, comes from the same source as Eire and the Ire in Ireland), but hibernal seems to have influenced the appearance of the b in Hibernia. Which is hironic, I mean ironic, given that we associate Ireland with the green of spring (and I am here to tell you that Ireland is indeed a very green country overall; see photo above – which was actually taken in the fall!).

But it’s not the already past 17th I’m on about, it’s today, the vernal equinox – when night and day are equal, and it’s the one time of year things spring forth – and neither hibernal nor Hibernia relates to vernality, in truth; vernality comes from Latin ver, ‘spring’, which somehow is not related to Latin verus ‘true’. 

Well. There are a lot of words springing forth from the wellspring of Latin (and its further sources). And the joy of etymology and word tasting is evergreen – which, again ironically, is not particularly vernal, since it’s green all year round. (It’s also not particularly venal, since it doesn’t pay. But it may be venial, since it’s pardonable.) 

But it’s never the wrong time to leaf through a dictionary. Don’t be verecund (‘shy’); sure, you never know when you might get lucky.