The Lister List

The Word ‘Papiroflexia’


Nigel Pottle and Alfredoi Perez Jimenez discuss the Spanish word "papiroflexia".

When I referred to the words "Paperfolding" and "papierfalten" in a previous posting, I deliberately avoided referring to the Spanish word "Papiroflexia", which would appear to mean exactly the same, because I knew that it was derived somewhat differently from the apparently natural English and German Words.

"Papiroflexia" ultimately derives from the Latin words "papirus" and "flictere", which means "to bend". Papirus primarily meant papirus as we understand it today,which, while it may have been a useful writing merial, was not paper in our modern sense. However, in the later years of the Latin language is also came to be used for paper. Whether there are any Spanish intermediaries between these Latin words and the later Spanish word "papiroflexia" I cannot say.

"Papiroflexia" is not the traditional word for paperfolding in Spain. The traditional term seems to have been "making pajaritas" (or whatever that would be in Spanish). Vicente Palacios could probably tell us more about this.

The philosopher Unamuno invented the word "Cocotologia". I have heard it suggested that for his first writing on the subject, "Apuntes para un tratado de cocotologia", which was an appendix to his novel "Amor y pedagogia", he adopted this word because, in this satiraical work, he didn't want to use the word "pajarita". "Cocotologia" (the pseudo-science of folding paper birds) is derived from the French word cocotte, which means a hen or a chicken. Like the word "pajarita", it also means a bird in the coquettish sense of the word. (Young Englismen still speak of "pulling a bird" when they are bragging about getting the attention of a young woman.)

But I get side-tracked: back to "Papiroflexia"! I understand that this was a neologism invented by Dr Vicente Solorzano Sagredo, the Spanish doctor who emigrated to Argentina in the early years of the 20th Century, where he took up dentistry and paperfolding. Dr. Solorzano was fond of inventing new words and his many books on paperfolding abound with them. His first book was "Papirolas 1er Manual", which was published in Buenos Aires in 1938. I believe that the word "Papirolas" itself was another of Solorzano's words.

Papirolas 1 has the subtitle "Tratado de Papiroflexia", so he was using the term "papiroflexia" by 1938. He went on to use the word for several of his books aincluding "Papiroflexia elemental", "Tratado de papiroflexia superior" and the work he considered to be his masterpiece, the jumbo-sized, two-volume "Papiroflexia Zoomorfica" (Actually, this is a most disappointing book. Solorzano's most important book by far is his "Tratado de Papiroflexia Superior". (1945) and if he had stopped there, I feel sure his reputation would now be much higher.)

Dr. Solorzano also invented the words "deltoid" and "deltoidologia" , which refer to the shape of the collapsed classic bases, but they have never caught on, in Spain, Argentina or anywhere else.

Papiroflexia Zoomorfica seems to have killed off Solorzano's reputation as a paperfolder . His earlier, much more valuable books are almost imposssible to obtain, so modern paperfolders are entirely unaware of his work. But one thing did remain: the word "papiroflexia" which is still used in Spain as the word for paperfolding.

David Lister.

Fri 03 May 2002

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