A pig shall come forth

John Bossy

  • The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery by Ingrid Rowland
    Chicago, 230 pp, £16.00, January 2005, ISBN 0 226 73036 0

What on earth, you ask, is a scarith? Well, it is a sort of mud-piecrust package, which may be tubular in shape, containing in various layers documents of immense antiquity. What language is the word from? Apparently from ancient Etruscan, or Hetruscan, if stories about the grandeur of the Tuscan kingdom up to the time of Lars Porsena of Clusium are to be believed. Since the Etruscan tongue has proved more resistant to decipherers than that of Minoan Crete, we have rather to take ‘scarith’ and its referent on trust; one thing we know about it is that its plural, which Ingrid Rowland has used in her title since she has a few of them to write about, is the same as its singular. She does not say if that is a general characteristic of the language, which if true might give Chomsky a problem. It seems likely that the unearthing of more Etruscan writings, and of a Rosetta Stone to translate them, will leave ‘scarith’, singular and plural, a hapax legomenon.

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