Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Contradiction Occurs To Me.

Above the salt...a phrase indicating social stature. Salt was an extremely valuable commodity and not to be wasted on hoi polloi (A "the" would be redundant so I resist the urge.) Salt was so valuable as to be used as currency. And yet..

Another popular phrase of the time was to salt the earth, rendering fields...well, the opposite of arable, (a word that eludes me at the moment).

Where the hell did they get enough salt to salt someone's fields?

7 comments:

Jim Wright said...

Sea water.

Random Michelle K said...

So not so much used in the midwest is what you're saying, Jim?

Janiece Murphy said...

The only word I can think of that opposes "arable" is "fallow," but that's not quite right.

But when you salt the earth, the result is called "scorched earth."

Nathan said...

Jim, I get the sea water concept (at least near an ocean), but then why was salt so valuable? It just seems like one or the other concept must have been exagerated.

Janiece, I've decided to go with "barren" as the closest option.

Chris said...

I learned in a military history course in college that "salting the earth" was just a dramatic metaphor for invading armies laying waste to crops and fields; generally to deprive the enemy of needed supplies. I don't know how true this is, but I can't imagine an ancient army going to all the trouble of lugging tons of salt on campaign.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan, getting enough firewood to evaporate seawater would have been a problem, so salt from seawater was rare in the ancient world. Plus the contaminants in the seawater would make the salt taste funny.

Eric said...

Janiece: "fallow" ground is suitable for agriculture, but unused (to allow nutrients to accrue in the soil), so it's almost closer to a synonym for "arable" (but not quite: fallow ground is arable, but arable ground can be left fallow or cultivated).

(Sorry, being pedantic is almost second nature to me. Makes me an asshole. Apologetic. Please forgive.)

"Barren" would be a good antonym for "arable," as Nathan suggested.

Chris and John: since salt supposedly harms zombies, I think it's clear from this extremely accurate and totally historical documentary that English knights had motive to carry around wagonloads of salt with their armies. :-D