zerophagy - not in OED (or should it be xerophagy?)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Nov 19 19:09:42 UTC 2009

At 1:47 PM -0500 11/19/09, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>Is the "zerophagy" below something new, or the author's/printer's
>spelling of  (or error for) "xerophagy"?

i.e. = 'dry-eating', as in Parolles' discursus on virginity-qua-withered-pear--

"Your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French
wither'd peares, it lookes ill, it eates drily, marry 'tis a wither'd
peare"  (All's Well that Ends Well, I.i)

What a relief!  "Zerophagy" sounds more like a radical new diet
regimen that I fear would be only too effective.


>Edward E. Bourne
>_The History of Wells and Kennebunk ..._
>Portland: B. Thurston, 1875.
>p. 126.
>[Describing the primitiveness of the early settlers circa the 1660s,
>and the laws of the time.]
>Every man's volitions or actions were prescribed by some rule, which
>would establish a dead uniformity through all the features and
>activities of human society.  They denounced all manifestations of
>human taste, all exhibitions of peculiar thought, all attempts to
>imitate the beautiful in nature, or to break up the monotony which
>these wiseacres deemed the only acceptable service of the good
>Providence. A zerophagy, spiritual as well as material, was to be the
>regular canon of life.
>[For those wishing more context,  available in Google Books, full text.]
>No spellings of "zerophag*' in the OED.
>The closest I can come in the above quotation to "xerophagy", "The
>eating of dry food, esp. as form of fasting practised in the early
>church" (OED), is a figurative extension of it emanating from
>Bourne's use of the word "taste" (also in a figurative sense) in the
>previous sentence.  A Google search turns up a few (41 becoming 11)
>hits for "zerography" used for (i.e., as the spelling of)
>"xerography", including a Roget.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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