While editing Amor de la Selva, I set out to find a word meaning “using language related to death,” which I’m beginning to suspect has not yet been wrapped up tidily into one English word. However, in the search I have found other words related (or mayhaps not) to death, and the obvious thing to do is toy with their definitions a bit and share them with you.
mort – the note of a hunting horn signifying that the quarry has been killed; a 3-year-old salmon; lard (in some British dialect); or a great many (the etymology I found on this is spotty but I imagine it being related to Dante’s famous “ch’i’ non averei creduto che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta”).
mortgage – “dead pledge,” wherein the lender is conveyed interest in property as security for the repayment of money borrowed.
mortiferous – deadly or fatal, but not simply as in “Oh nooo, mortal wound.” No, this means bearing death. Death-bearing. He who comes bearing death in his hands!!! Thus, officially cool word. N.B. that a) you can also discuss someone’s mortiferousness, and b) if anyone ever translated this comic strip into Latin, Mortifera or something like it would suit Deebs just fine.
mortling – dead animal, that is, one that has died naturally.
mortmain – a word whose literal meaning (“dead hand”) sounds way cooler than its definition: the condition of lands/tenements held without right of alienation, as by an ecclesiastical corporation. Dear legal definitions, you should really become less dull. Much love, Me.
mortmal – a bad sore, gangrene, or cancer; written sometimes as “mormal.” Doctors, this could be a useful way to tell someone he has a horrible affliction without panicking him utterly at the outset! He will think you have said “normal” and go “That’s alright, then” and you can proceed to educate him about Chaucerian diction and also the fact of his mortality.
mortpay – the crime of taking pay for the service of dead soldiers, or for services not actually rendered by soldiers. I rather want to see an example of this, because surely the dead soldier’s family gets some recompense if the soldier dies in action? Please educate me, O Ye That Know.
mortress – It sounds like it ought to be a fortress of the dead. However, the “mort” root in this instance refers not to death, but to a bowl-shaped cavity (cp. mortar and pestle), such that a mortress is really “a dish of meats and other ingredients, cooked together; an olla-podrida.” Though that seemingly describes any given casserole, the notes under olla-podrida say “a spicy Spanish stew of sausage and other meat, chickpeas, and often tomatoes and other vegetables.”
mortsafe – a heavy iron cage or grille placed over the grave of a newly deceased person during the 19th century in order to deter body snatchers. Somehow I can’t help but think that someone who has gotten into the profession of exhuming bodies is not one to be deterred easily.
mortuary – evidently this refers not only to funeral homes (what a name, by the way. Home of funerals. Home. Not simply “house” or “building” but home. Fascinating, as it also happens that mortuary was first used as a euphemism [ca. 1865] in place of “deadhouse”); it also means “a customary gift formerly claimed by and due to the incumbent of a parish in England from the estate of a deceased parishioner.” I imagine this is the sort of word that would confuse me when used in this sense in older books. The word can also be an adjective meaning “of or pertaining to the burial of the dead; pertaining to or connected with death,” which, though it does not describe writing specifically, is closest to The Word I Was Looking For.