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The King and the Dendrites

The weekend is a good time to take care of housekeeping matters.

1. We received e-mail about the King Canute legend (see Issue XIII of TWE, posted March 1st). Yup, we're aware it didn't really happen that way. To quote Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, "Canute's chief claim to fame is his supposed attempt to turn back the tide. Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler who first recounted the incident, gives no location, but it is traditionally said to have occurred at the inland port of Gainsborough. . . The story is entirely misinterpreted, since Canute was actually trying to demonstration to his courtiers that only God could control the tide, not man."

Brewer's, by the way, is an enjoyable reference book. We paid about $30.00 for our used volume. It's attractive, hardbound, and thick–1300 pages (16th edition, 1999). One of the best browsing books in our library, and the on-line edition appears to pale next to it. Did you know, for instance, that "nickel" got its name from the German Kupfernickel, a type of ore? Kupfer means "copper" and Nickel is the name of the mischievous goblin fabled to inhabit German mines. It got the name because, though copper colored, there was no copper in it, and the Nickel was blamed.

2. There has also been a question about our use of "anchorite" and "cenobite" in "The Swimsuit Issue" (February 28th). We believe we used the terms correctly. "Anchorite" refers to a hermit monk, but a loose community of them, like the anchorites living in huts at Scetis (think of free-standing condos), are properly referred to as "cenobites."

For your edification and entertainment, here's a list of various forms of the eremitic life (from Tomas Splidik's The Spirituality of the Christian East):

Boskoi: Grazing or browsing eremites who had no fixed abode
Dendrites: Eremites who lived in trees
Statics: Eremites who remained standing in open air
Stylites: Eremites who lived on an elevated platform
Recluses: Eremites who locked themselves in a cell
Xeniteia: Eremites who went away to live alone in a land not their own