Comfrey and peacocks

Rural walks continue to be a brief solace in days that resemble each other too closely during this lockdown. At least we can inject a bit of variety by taking different routes, explore new ones. But we’re running out of unexplored country lanes and paths, Mrs TD and I.

Peacock on fenceOne of our default walks takes us past the place where a group of peacocks live. I recently posted a picture of one with his magnificent tail fanned out as he slowly rotated to show himself off to best effect. A couple of days ago there he was – or one of his colleagues – perched rather glumly on a fence. It was a bright sunny day, but he was under trees in dappled shade, so my pictures don’t do justice to his shimmering petrol-blue/green plumage.Peacock on fence

When I checked the origin of the name at the OED online, I wasn’t surprised to see the ‘pea’ element has nothing to do with the legume. What did surprise me was that it derives ultimately from the Latin name, pavo. I recognised this as the modern Spanish for ‘turkey’. OK, so peacocks do slightly resemble these fan-tailed strutters – so what’s the Spanish for ‘peacock’? Turns out it’s ‘pavo real’ – royal turkey. Figures.

ComfreyAlong another lane I came across this pretty blue flower. My plant identifier app informed me it was comfrey.

I vaguely recalled hearing this plant was traditionally used medicinally; a quick search online confirmed this. Its old name was knitbone, alluding to its healing properties when used as a poultice for healing burns, sprains and broken bones. It is also said to be beneficial when taken internally as a potion to treat symptoms of stomach ailments. I was alarmed therefore to read that it also has toxic qualities, and this internal use has been banned in the USA.

Its name in Latin, according to the OED online, is consolida or conferva – reflecting its healing properties. The etymology of the English word is unknown, but the earliest citation from c. 1000 refers to it as confirma(n), and this might be where ‘comfrey’ derives from.

I liked this later OED citation:

1578    H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball  i. ciii. 145   The rootes of Comfery..healeth all inwarde woundes, and burstings.

I shudder to think what inward burstings are.

Also pleasing was the description in this OED entry of comfrey as a vulnerary – employed in healing wounds, or having curative properties in respect of external injuries. A useful word, as Dr Johnson might have said.

My reading progress is slow still. I’m up to p.160 of Anthony Trollope’s second Palliser novel, Phineas Finn. I’m enjoying it so far, especially the spooky parallels with modern political hypocrisy and chicanery. Nothing much has changed in the power elite. Recent events in Britain demonstrate that there’s still one set of rules for them, and another, harsher one for the plebs. Our political leaders feign caring for us, but have during this crisis increasingly failed to disguise their arrogant contempt for the ordinary people.

End of rant.

12 thoughts on “Comfrey and peacocks

    • Sorry about that rant. We’re incensed at this D Cummings business: his blatant flouting of the lockdown rules, and sneering ‘explanation’ or justification for doing so that insults the intelligence of the public. He clearly doesn’t give a damn about us – as he said to the media when they first confronted him: ‘who cares what it looks like?’. I guess this all seems a bit parochial to those who don’t live in the UK, but it’s pretty important for us: the way the PM and his sycophantic ministers rallied round this despicable ‘adviser’ (he’s the one really calling the policy shots) was a disgrace. They placed the security of this one arrogant egotist’s job over that of the public – because BJ would be even more hopeless if he didn’t have DC to tell him what to do. Oops, that turned into another rant…

  1. Peacocks are lovely to look at, but they have horrendous screechy calls. Also, in the area in Los Angeles where there are a lot of peacocks, they do a lot of roof damage (digging among the shingles for bugs). A friend of mine who lived there would rant and rave about those ****** peacocks. Royal turkey, indeed.

    There was a television series based on the Palliser books from decades ago. I remember Phineas Finn was one of my favorite characters. It’s been so long, though I can’t really remember much of the details.

    Inward burstings. Ick!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *