THE CABINET OF LINGUISTIC CURIOSITIES
Paul Anthony Jones (www.paulanthonyjones.com)
Elliott & Thompson (www.eandtbooks.com)
auripotent (n.) rich and powerful
The Latin word for gold was aurum, which is not only responsible for the chemical symbol for gold, Au, but is today found at the root of a host of suitably golden words. Aurigraphy, for instance, is the act of writing or engraving on gold. Something that is auriphrygiate is embroidered or fringed with golden threads. Anything aureoline or aurelian is golden coloured, while an auricomous person has golden hair. Aureity is goldenness, or the collective qualities possessed by gold. And if you’re auripotent then you’re rich in gold – which, thanks to a discovery on 19 October 1872, the prospector Bernhardt Holtermann certainly was.
Born in Germany in 1838, Holtermann emigrated to Australia when he was twenty and began prospecting in Hill End, New South Wales, in 1861. There he teamed up with a fellow Prussian emigrant, Hugo Beyers, and in 1872, after several luckless years, their partnership, the Star of Hope Gold Mining Company, struck upon a rich seam of gold containing an enormous single specimen of gold known as the Holtermann Nugget.
Measuring almost 5 feet long and weighing in at a staggering 630 lbs, the Holtermann Nugget – not a true nugget in the strictest sense, but rather a massive deposit of gold encased in quartz rock – contained 3,000 troy ounces (equivalent to more than 200 lbs) of pure gold. It remains the single largest specimen of gold ever found on earth.
After unsuccessfully bidding to buy the nugget outright, Holtermann resigned from the partnership the following year, but had still secured his fortune.
The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones is published by Elliott & Thompson, and is available now, priced £14.99