Aguaxima


This is what Diderot had to say about “aguaxima” in the Encylopédie.

AGUAXIMA, (Hist. nat. bot.) plante du Brésil & des isles de l’Amérique méridionale. Voilà tout ce qu’on nous en dit; & je demanderois volontiers pour qui de pareilles descriptions sont faites. Ce ne peut être pour les naturels du pays, qui vraissemblablement connoissent plus de caracteres de l’aguaxima, que cette description n’en renferme, & à qui on n’a pas besoin d’apprendre que l’aguaxima naît dans leur pays; c’est, comme si l’on disoit à un François, que le poirier est un arbre qui croît en France, en Allemagne, &c. Ce n’est pas non plus pour nous; car que nous importe qu’il y ait au Brésil un arbre appellé aguaxima, si nous n’en savons que ce nom? à quoi sert ce nom? Il laisse les ignorans tels qu’ils sont; il n’apprend rien aux autres: s’il m’arrive donc de faire mention de cette plante, & de plusieurs autres aussi mal caractérisées, c’est par condescendance pour certains lecteurs, qui aiment mieux ne rien trouver dans un article de Dictionnaire, ou même n’y trouver qu’une sottise, que de ne point trouver l’article du tout.

Aguaxima, a plant growing in Brazil and on the islands of South America. This is all that we are told about it; and I would like to know for whom such descriptions are made. It cannot be for the natives of the countries concerned, who are likely to know more about the aguaxima than is contained in this description, and who do not need to learn that the aguaxima grows in their country. It is as if you said to a Frenchman that the pear tree is a tree that grows in France, in Germany, etc . It is not meant for us either, for what do we care that there is a tree in Brazil named aguaxima , if all we know about it is its name? What is the point of giving the name? It leaves the ignorant just as they were and teaches the rest of us nothing. If all the same I mention this plant here, along with several others that are described just as poorly, then it is out of consideration for certain readers who prefer to find nothing in a dictionary article or even to find something stupid than to find no article at all.

There doesn’t appear to be much more information available about aguaxima than there was in Diderot’s day. I find that it Is a variety of Brazilian black pepper, commonly called Caapeba (Latin – Piper marginatum Jacq.). Synonyms in Portuguese: pariparoba, piperomia, malvaísco, caapeba-cheirosa, capava, malvarisco, capeba, capeba-branca, pimenta-do-mato, pimenta-dos-índios, nhandi.

It seems to me that there are many people capable of making  long speeches and writing intricate articles on subjects like aguaxima.  Most of them hold a degree in tautology. The problem is that often you only realise this after you have heard the speech or read the article. I suggest that we label them aguaximatists. If we could identify them with just one word, it might save us time which could be spent more usefully watching clouds or counting the spots on passing dalmatians.

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