Word of the day: tarantism

Today's word of the day, as brought to my attention by Rehana, is 'tarantism'. The Concise OED defines tarantism as:

a psychological illness characterised by an extreme impulse to dance, prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to 17th century and formerly believed to be caused by the bite of a tarantula.

That has to be the dictionary definition with everything - history, strange but amusing illnesses, spiders and Italians...

The word listed above it in my dictionary is 'tarantella', "a rapid whirling dance originating in southern Italy". Could the two be connected? Wikipedia says yes...

Not dancing, just dodging a spider

7 comments:

Gareth said...

Oh, well, if Wikipedia says so then it must be true!

JD said...

Elseswhere on Wikipedia it says that the tarantella is named after the city of Taranto... so it seems to be covering all the bases

Neil said...

At first I thought it was about Chris Tarrant

Neil said...

....woop posted too soon....

....Chris Tarrant and the art of knife-throwing

Sarah said...

Gosh I think I get that illness everytime i've had a little to much source! Phew i'm glad i've been diagnosed!

Sarah said...

Sorry I mean sauce

Apus said...

Can't see an obvious link between Taranto and the tarantella, unless it's something to do with the way the inhabitants of Taranto were leaping and gyrating in rage as two squadrons of Swordfish biplanes sunk three of their battleships one November night in 1940 (which gave the Japanese the idea of reprising the surprise attack on a rather bigger scale just over a year later).