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3 May 2010

Monday's Word - urtication

Spring has sprung, bringing with it spring flowers in myriad colours and varieties as well as the dreaded weeds.  including the ubiquitous nettle.

Before you leap for the weedkiller (remember the environment and the butterflies that rely on nettles  to feed their caterpillers) You might find the following article by *Michael Quinion  as intreresting as I did.

 "Your favourite word magazine* may be accused of nearing the knuckle(a British idiom meaning verging on the indecent), since urtication- flogging with nettles - has been advocated for erotic stimulation in various cultures. But it's known best as a method of provokinginflammation, a folk remedy for several ailments.

  ...The word can be traced back to Roman times. Latin "urtica" is thestinging-nettle, a name in turn taken from the verb "urere", to burn. The medical term "urticaria" refers to a condition of the skin that's also called nettle rash and hives.

Romans are said to have performed the nettle-flogging technique with other aims in mind than easing arthritis:

'Dreading the (British) climate, [Romans] brought nettles  to plant around their first camp in Kent, intending to use them as food, animal fodder and, more bizarrely, as a quick heating system. A flogging with nettle stems was, they had discovered, just the thing for warming chilly  limbs. Enthusiasts might like to know that it's calleurtication.
[Independent, 22 Sep. 2001.]' "

Hmm, don't know about you but I can think of more comfortable ways of keeping warm - like curling up under the duvet with a good book, for instance!

 This article is reproduced with permission from:
*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2010. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org/