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... In this case, the child was nailed to the stem of a cocoanut tree and so left to die, the best punishment, as was thought, for a demon, who had the impudence to be born of a human mother...

EDIT: This is from 1865 and was something that happened for real in an area of the world where nailing was not known to be common (At least to my knowledge)

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    Why do you think one word with a clear definition actually means another word with adifferent definition? – TimLymington Apr 28 '18 at 12:32
  • @TimLymington: I should have mentioned that this is from 1865 and was something that happened for real in an area of the world where nailing was not known to be common (At least to my knowledge) – nakiya Apr 28 '18 at 12:41
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    I don't have too much trouble believing it's literal, if the context is a culture that believes strongly in demons -- horrible things have been done in such cases. If the child was to be left to die there's no great "mercy" in tying him to the tree vs nailing him. – Hot Licks Apr 28 '18 at 12:46
  • Is there a difference between a coconut and a cocoanut ? – Nigel J Apr 28 '18 at 12:58
  • Cocoanut is an obsolete spelling. – Michael Harvey Apr 28 '18 at 13:17
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There is no linguistic reason to think that nailed "could" or "should" mean bound in the article "On Demonology and Witchcraft in Ceylon" that appears in The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland: Volumes 3-4, published in the late 19th century by the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Ceylon Branch, Colombo.

Doubt regarding whether the event is factual is another question. But keep in mind that nails do not have to be made out of iron; there are wooden nails. So there's no reason, linguistically to think that nailed means something other than nailed.

The example just before this one speaks of another child thought to be a demon, and his fate was that "An hour or two after its birth the grandfather dashed out its brains with a stick." I doubt that was common in "Ceylon" either, except in the case of so-called demon babies.

  • You nailed it!! – Hot Licks Apr 28 '18 at 18:33

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