Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spoon River Morphology

Posted By on 10.05.10 at 09:11 AM

Daily Austin Republican, November 25, 1858. Here's another highly remarkable case of maternal impression. You're doubtless wondering what the pregnant Mrs. ______ was doing on a Civil War battlefield, and how her kid managed to get along without a head. I can't help you with the former puzzle, but as to the latter, it’s really quite simple. . .

Savant that I am, I just happen to know the exact word for what this kid was: He was a Blemmyes, part of an ancient race of
headless people of whom Pliny the Elder wrote (while extremely high, presumably) traduntur capita abesse, ore et oculis pectore adfixis (“They are said to have no heads, but a mouth and eyes in their chests”). Pliny had it worked out that these folks lived out Africa way somewhere, maybe Ethiopia.That’s pretty far from Illinois, but let’s give Pliny credit for the details he got right.

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