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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Friday, February 8 2002

A mess of dottage

All day I've been wondering what to write for tonight, and now it's "tonight" and nothing is written. A mess of dottage.... The phrase has been going through my mind, a play on the phrase "a mess of pottage." It (with the "dottage" wordplay) was probably a title Herb Caen used for one of his daily columns in the decades I was regularly reading his three-dot output in the San Francisco Chronicle....The reference to "pottage" is to the King James Version of the Book of Genesis, which recounts the story of Esau selling his birthright, the right to be patriarch of God's people, the nation of Israel, for a pot of pottage, to his twin brother Jacob. "Mess" of pottage was probably some preacher's interpretation of the pot or bowl of lentil-and-wildlife stew Jacob enticed Esau with when his elder twin was nearly faint with hunger.

"Mess," used for a serving or course of food, sounds like a western Pennsylvania colloquialism to me because that's where I heard it a few times in my coming up years. I remember a neighbor lady talking of making a "mess of dandelions." I can't remember "mess" ever being used to describe any other course of food, though of course everyone is aware that in the military dinner is referred to as "mess" and the dining room is the "mess hall." Some civilian campgrounds keep that tradition, too. A "mess of dandelions" always struck me as poetically appropriate, as in "what a mess."

I've eaten dandelions once or twice; they're similar to collard greens, though I don't remember eating those until I lived in Los Angeles in 1998-99. A little like Swiss chard, but even less flavorful. But like chard they're cooked with bacon, which can make even weeds edible. I remembered our discussion of Western Pennsylvania sayings and speech patterns several years back and wondered if "mess" fits in there....Turns out the answer is no. The very first definition of "mess" as a noun is as a course of a meal, from the Latin, missus, which also means to put, to send.

And in that, it turns out, it's also the Latin root of the word "mass," as in the most common term for Communion in the English-speaking Roman Catholic church. I read years ago that the Latin missa was used to dismiss the people in the service who were not staying for communion. Communion, itself, is a meal, a mess, in the literal meaning of the word, so the ambiguity of its meaning as "to send" and "to feed" is no doubt why it came to be used for the eucharistic meal.

Beyond that, I've got nothing.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Just ask a kid

A little boy opened the big old family Bible with fascination, and looked at the old pages as he turned them. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked it up and looked at it closely. It was a colorful autumn leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. "Momma, look what I found," the boy called out.

"What have you got there, dear?" his mother asked.

With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered: "I think it's Adam's suit!"

Sent by Sallie Covolo

Thought for the Day

Pray constantly. Try always to recall that God is with you, dwelling in you. (This helps a great deal in controlling thoughts.) For more than 1,500 years, some Christians have tried to do this by forming the habit of praying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" all the time, a kind of background music to other thoughts. It not only helps one resist more turbulent thoughts and deeds, but also creates a kind of mental foyer in which thoughts and impulses can be examined before they're allowed inside.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
From Christianity Today

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