Caul: seven definitions

1. A veil for a sailor, to ward off the covetous eye of the sea.

2. Sackcloth made of nimbus, used for storing multiple outcomes.

3. A pod full of seeds too lucky to ever sprout. Logic dictates a creation ex nihilo by an ad hoc committee.

4. A cross between foam and flotsam. In particular, a bottle with a ship for a message.

5. A piggy bank, when its change turns into rent money.

6. A sort of mammalian exuvia, soft and spongy after being vacated by the internally boned organism and its shrill cicada cry.

7. An old wineskin.

Caul; exuvia.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. I once tried to write a poem a about a painting of a newborn in a caul. It was a very open lace-work that shimmered as though wet. I liked those threads. Most obviously a birth sac. Do you call that a trope when you turn afterbirth into silver, in a painting? Inside, where her robes lay open, the madonna glowed a fiery orange-red.

    What an inventive list. A piggy bank ! Sackcloth of nimbus! I must study.

    Over Thanksgiving supper we discussed suet, sweet meats and black-bird pies.


  2. There, I got the piggy bank riddle. Very good!


  3. That sounds like a cool painting! And I remember the poem. Was that in qarrtsiluni, or did you leave it in one of the comments here?


  4. Exuvia!!! It’s a happy day when I learn a new-to-me word. Thank you!


  5. Happy to oblige. Though I must confess, I picked it up last week from a post at Burning Silo (which is maybe my favorite natural history blog right now, FWIW).


  6. Cool list! Many new words here for me – gotta get the dictionary out. Strangely, just recently a commenter used the word caul in describing something about my print.


  7. Ah, I love coincidences like that! Especially since I had absolutely no reason of my own to write about cauls, other than to exercise my flabby writing-muscles.


  8. I am partial to lists! And I likes this one! The 12 th of December is the feast day of the Virgen of Guadeloupe. Part of the story has Juan Diego unrolling his sack cloth pancho in front of the Bishop and Castillian roses fall out at the Bishops feet and the image of the Virgen was is emblazoned on the cloth. Another sack…..


  9. One of Charles Dickens’s characters was “born with a caul”… was it David Copperfield? Cauls were though to be an omen of second sight or somesuch thing. Are babies still born with cauls? You don’t hear much mention of them these days.

    I also like the word “exuvia”, which reminds me of effluvium and its plural form effluvia. Words which should be used more often.


  10. Fred – A-ha! There’s another thing I might’ve had in mind, but didn’t, when I wrote the post. But all reading is a “reading into,” they say, and I like this one about the sackful of impossible roses.

    Larry – Yup. The passage from David Copperfield is quoted in the Wikipedia article I linked to above. My second definition is meant to take in the belief about second sight.

    Exuvia and effluvia do rhyme, but of course the first is a feminine singular noun in Latin, and the second is masculine plural. I’ll refrain from trying to torture some larger meaning out of that…

    Sorry about the multiple comments (but better than having your comment disappear, right?). The server can be iffy sometimes, but I’m not paying anything for its use, so I can’t complain.


  11. Dave, a “caul” google image search will take you to Paula’s House of Toast.


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