I started wondering about the word pith yesterday, which I associate with essences and concision. I’m suprised to discover that the word comes to us from plant life:
I think I should have known that. I think I should have also known that a pith helmet is made of the stuff.
Pith made me wonder about gist: does it too have a literal referent in nature? Maybe in geology? Nope:
I remember hearing the word gist often in kidhood. “I’ll give you the gist of it,” my dad would say. (He still does.) Gist and pith go together in my mind because of a sentence in Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading (1934):
A Japanese student in America, on being asked the difference between prose and poetry, said: Poetry consists of gists and piths.This post too.
[Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary.]