Homogenized milk is known as homo in Britain and Wales, where they commonly smoke fags as opposed to cigarettes. In California, USA, however, homo is slang in for humongous, except in the San Francisco bay area where it is slang for Englebert Humperdink. And in the slums of Salacgrīva homo is a plate of pasta topped with fried sheep brains, seasoned with black pepper, nutmeg, cocaine, and strychnine.
In Oztralia, a homo is one who sticks with one kind of drink (an homogenous drinker), as in "Ahhr mate yer not havin' none o' ahr Victoria Bitters then? Stickin' wit yer bleedin' plonk aintcha yer manky homo."
Yes, the meanings of words flutter like veritable butterflies above the wanton fields of mere facticity. Like an evanescent and execrable Monarch or a Painted Lady words flap hither and yon over the sparkling wens scattered with the daisies and buttercups of verifiable fact. As Shakespeare wrote
Tho' words like mayflies rise and swive Plain homo facts have nought to fear; If I get through this verse alive I think I'll go and have a queer... er... I mean beer. --Pud's Labour At Midsummers, Act IIIVI
Of course in Shakespeare's day homo meant "obnoxious" or "ill-tempered" -- a result of common disagreements over the price of beer.
All this horsecrappery just to say Words have many meanings, and they change. We could have done it in one sentence.
Implications and Imprecations
What, then, of attempts to define the terms used in language? What of vast and erudite compendiums of explanation?
Well, we can only imagine that they are attempting the impossible. We try to pin words to concrete, absolute definitions -- this means exactly that, and that means precisely this. But the definitions of this and that will change, and probably already have changed at about 2 o'clock, somewhere in the wide and wonderful world.
Samuel Johnson wrote what most consider the first comprehensive English-language dictionary. He defined poofter as "One who poofts or huffts, as a huffter of kittens might be call'd." Of course we use a differnt definition nowadays, and Johnson's great work is gone mostly to waste. Like the labors of Samuel "Big Dick" Johnson, the work of encyclopedists, uncyclopedists, and motorcyclopedists is destined to come to naught.
Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
In fact, we are beginning to regret this whole article. It is causing us to doubt our raisins d'être, as the French would say; doubt our "digestive intensity." Perhaps this whole project is useless. Perhaps it is nothing but futility, vanity, and arrogance in the face of ever-changing language. Damn.
Wait A Tick, We May Be Wrong About That
So just strike all that philosophical-linguistic stuff about meaning and whatnot. Let's stick with the facts.
The Homo River flows south from the Æthiopian Highlands and empties into Lake Turkana. It positively swarms with crocodiles and hippopotami. Dengue, malaria, guinea worm, and sleeping sickness are rife in this green Eden where the happy natives lead short happy lives.
Although the countryside through which the river flows is semi-arid, its headwaters in the mountains of southern Æthiopia receive abundant seasonal rainfall. In July and August the river runs a torrent, bank-full and red with silt. By January, the dry season, it shrinks to a foetid trickle and the natives must rely on beer for bathing, washing clothes, and drinking. Many perish and are eaten by their relatives. Others survive the terrific hangovers by swallowing the naturally analgesic aspirin deposits found on the alkaline shores of nearby Lake Natron.
Interestingly, the Turkana and Nangyatum who inhabit the banks of the Homo refer to the river as the Yorghey or the Yorsoghey, words meaning approximately the same thing as the modern definition of Samuel Johnson's old word, poofter! What is going on here?
In fact, we now notice that the Japanese word (kawa(no)omo) means "surface of the river" and Omo® is a brand of soap! The word omo is suspiciously close to the word homo -- identical, if one drops the soft h at the beginning of the latter.
A brief investigative Google reveals that the largest market for Omo® soap is among the Nangyatum people, who use it to cut the smell of beer when washing their clothes during the dry season along the Homo River.
This series of coincidences is highly unacceptable.
Furthermore, we find that in the eleventh century Saint Anselmo wrote a book called Cur Deus Homo, or Dog, God, and Man.
And What About Homo sapiens?
We're glad our heading posed that question. What a helpful heading. Homo sapiens ("Man The Sappy") arose from Homo eructus ("Man the Belcher") sometime in the 1980s. Paleontologists and archeologists have tracked early man to his most ancient home, and it now appears very likely that man evolved somewhere along the Homo River in eastern Africa!
And of course man gave himself the genus name Homo in reference to his place of origin. Furthermore, it was here -- among the thornbushes, sandbars, and crocodiles -- that man domesticated dogs. Hence Saint Anselmo's work, "Dog, God, and Man", which (in measured metaphorical iambic pentameter) examines the paleontological evidence Anselmo had discovered fully 800 years before scientists would do so!
Part of the cryptic and mystical meaning of the word homo is therefore wrapped up in the origins of man, the Hand of God, and the Paw of Dog.
But That's Not All
No, it's not all by any stretch. What of the Latin phrase ecce homo, inviso balatro, found in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Usually ecce homo translates as "behold the man". (Invisio balatro is sometimes translated as "who stole my yarmulka" but this is disputed.) Anyway, the whole point is that the mysterious word homo has appeared yet again. And in highly peculiar circumstances, at that.
Furthermore, whilst we are on the subject of Latin, the poet Horace Walpole wrote Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit, translated as "The fellow is either mad or he is composing verses." Horace was commenting on Oscar Wilde, who at the time was sprawled on the settee of the notorious drug fiend Samuel Coleridge with his eyes rolled back in his head.
The most common drinker of homo milk is Willis McKenzie.