A substance resembling rubber but containing more resin, from the latex of several Malaysian trees of the genera Payena and Palaquium . It is nearly white to brown, hard and rather elastic, softens on heating, and can be vulcanized. It is used esp. as an electric insulator and in temporary fillings in teeth.The word derives from the Malay. According to the Second : “gëtah gum + përcha the tree producing it.”
I cannot think of gutta-percha without thinking of James Joyce’s “The Dead”:
—Goloshes, Julia! exclaimed her sister. Goodness me, don’t you know what goloshes are? You wear them over your . . . over your boots, Gretta, isn’t it?Now when I think of gutta-percha, I’ll think of Speak, Memory, too.
—Yes, said Mrs Conroy. Guttapercha things. We both have a pair now. Gabriel says everyone wears them on the continent.
—O, on the continent, murmured Aunt Julia, nodding her head slowly.
Related reading, via Pinboard
All OCA Nabokov posts
Other words, other works of lit: Apoplexy, avatar, bandbox, heifer, sanguine, sempiternal : Artificer : Ineluctable : Iridescent : Magnifico : Opusculum
[Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary gives a different etymology: “gĕtah sap, latex + pĕrcha scrap, rag.” The Oxford English Dictionary agrees with Webster’s Second (and Third ). Gutta owes something to the Latin gutta drop, also the source of the English word gutter .]