Tuesday, April 04, 2006

about the name of this blog

Word Y. Smith left a comment wondering as to the origin of the meaning of "Oubliette", specifically how I define it in the header. I can't find the original comment to respond to, so I'll answer it here, since more people wonder the same thing.

"Oubliette" is a French word, stemming from the verb "oublier" - to forget. The "-ette" suffix means "small, little". Drop the "-er" from the verb, add "-ette", and you get a noun meaning, literally, "a little place to forget; a little place of forgetting".

As far what a traditional oubliette is, it's a small dungeon with only one way in or out, through a hole in the ceiling. Literally, one would put prisioners in there and forget about them, let them die slowly. In England, oubliettes that have been found in castles are generally round, and most have spikes in the floor. A prisioner was thrown in from a doorway 20 or more feet above the floor of the oubliette. The prisioner would die, horribly and slowly, impaled on the spikes, lying on the bodies and skeletons of those who previously died in the cell.

I can't remember which castle in England had it's oubliette excavated by an archeological team, but they found something along the lines of more than 50 bodies. One body on the top of the pile had a 19th century pocket watch. Yes, that particular oubliette had been used from the time the castle was built in the Middle Ages through the mid 1800s.

What you may be thinking about, Word Smith, is a Labrynth, which is a maze. I know in the movie "Labrynth" what is called the Oubliette, is really an underground labrynth, mimicing the above ground one. If the pit of hands hadn't gone anywhere, it would have been an oubliette.

I'm guessing the Norman Invasion brought that nice little piece of dungeon technology to England from France, hence the French name. My sources? Sorry that I can't quote them, but they are various documentaries, articles, books, and the entymology of the word. (Yes, I do know French.) J'oublie que libres je leger pour mon information.

No comments: