Bombastus And The Mountebanks

One has to admire Mr and Mrs von Hohenheim, the parents of Paracelsus (1493-1541), for giving their tot the Christian names Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus. Two things worth remembering about Paracelsus are that he was the first person to call zinc zinc – actually he called it zincum – and that he kept a small avian devil imprisoned in the pommel of his sword. Samuel Butler noted this in Hudibras, where he wrote:

Bombastus kept a devil’s bird / Shut in the pommel of his sword, / That taught him all the cunning pranks / Of past and future mountebanks.


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