Of or pertaining to a sponge

Quite often people get tunes stuck in their head. They whistle ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ until they become nihilistic, fire themselves into a gun-toting killing spree, then swallow a Peter Gabriel double LP without breaking it, washed down with bitumen and chocolate milk.

I’ve just got a single word stuck in my head.


Yes, spongious.

It’s brilliant isn’t it? It sounds like a Roman centurion in a British film from the 1940s. “Oh do fetch the strigiling spoon, Spongious, I’ve got the very devil of a rubbery Rawhide…”

… said James Mason.

Apparently, spongious, has two definitions.

First, says the OED, it means “Of the nature of a sponge; spongy.” And then, it means “Of or pertaining to a sponge.”

And it should most certainly not be spongiose, which means “Of a spongy texture.”

Anyway, folk of yore found all sorts of  uses for spongious. Medieval surgeons were especially keen on it. Somewhere around the fifteenth century, Lanfranc’s Chiurgery helpfully advised everyone that “þei [bones] ben somewhat spongious [or spongyouse] in þe myddis.”

Speak for yourself, Lanfranc.

And in 1543, a man called Traheron pointed out to everyone that “Uvula (as the Anatomystes say) is a spongyous membre.”


More my style is a man called R. Russell, who in 1578, boldly weighed into spongious’s etymological history with an honest-to-goodness, salt-of-the-earth contribution: “Solid woods give a strongFire, spongious a week.”

That’s the stuff R. Russell: sit down in the corner with your bulldog and chew on the shank of an ox for a while.

Spongious. (It really won’t go away). Spongious. Spongious. Spongious.

~ by David Thorley on October 12, 2010.

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