A glut of acorns, or a bad case of The Plague?


What would you make of medieval historical records that prominently note the occurrence of large crops of acorns? It's a bit of a weird departure from the kinds of things these records normally care about, i.e. battles and the deaths of famous people. In fact, the people keeping these records didn't even eat acorns, and other, more useful, crops aren't mentioned at all.

But, sometimes, an acorn might be more than just an acorn, according to a 2003 paper by classicist David Woods. That's because the Latin word for "little nut" and the word sometimes used to describe the swollen lymph nodes caused by the Capital-P Plague are one and the same.

The Latin term glandularius is the root of our word for gland; etymologically, glandula means 'little nuts' because this is what they felt like when palpated. There is at least one other example of a plague record using glandulara as a descriptor. In c. 660 the Burgundian 'Chronicle of Fredegar' describes the 599 plague of Marseilles as a cladis glanduaria.

So "a spark of leprosy and an unheard of abundance of nuts", becomes the far more logical, "we've had some issues with leprosy and The Plague this year".

Contagions: Plague among the nuts

Image via Wikipedia user Twid, under CC