CORMORANT

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Truth or Dare”

Is it possible to be too honest or is honesty (frankness) always the best policy? In real life some things are not worth arguing about, but others…?

The Visual Thesaurus usually comes up with some pretty interesting words and this day was no exception.

Though the VT dictionary does not mention it, you may find cormorant in a wonderful glossary of words taken from Shakespeare’s plays.

Finally, have a look at this very detailed listing of where and how Shakespeare uses the word cormorant.

Cormorant.—The proverbial voracity of this bird gave rise to a man of large appetite being likened to it, a sense in which Shakespeare employs the word, as in “Coriolanus” (i. 1)—”The cormorant belly;” in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (i. 1)—”Cormorant devouring time;” and in “Troilus and Cressida” (ii. 2)—”This cormorant war.” “Although,” says Mr Harting, “Shakespeare mentions the cormorant in several of his plays, he has nowhere alluded to the sport of using these birds, when trained, for fishing; a fact which is singular, since he often speaks of the then popular pastime of hawking, and he did not die until some years after James I. had made fishing with cormorants a fashionable amusement.”

The Bible uses cormorant in at least four passages:

  • Leviticus 11:17—And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
  • Deuteronomy 14:17—And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,
  • Isaiah 34:11—But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.
  • Zephaniah 2:14—And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work.

Even though critics give Shakespeare credit for having studied ornithology, because of the number of birds mentioned in his plays, it is my opinion that Shakespeare took the word cormorant from the Hebrew Scriptures and not necessarily from a study of birds in general. Look closely at the Anglicized spelling of the Hebrew word for cormorant taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of Hebrew and Greek. Notice just how close that sound is to the name SHYLOCK, a Jew of Venice, in Merchant of Venice?

OT:7994  shalak (shaw-lawk’); from OT:7993; bird of prey, usually thought to be the pelican (from casting itself into the sea):

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

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