Kalamos ( _la. Calamus) is an ancient Greek word meaning reed or reed pen. The basis for this meaning is the story of the Greek mythological figure Kalamos, son of Maiandros (god of the Maeander river).

Kalamos and Karpos

The story, recounted by Eros to Dionysus in consolation for the loss of his eromenos Ampelos, tells of the love of Kalamos for the beautiful youth Karpos.Nonnos, "Dionysiaca", translated by le Comte de Marcellus in 1856. Eglinton 1964: 474.] Karpos drowned in the Meander river while the two were competing in a swimming contest and in his grief, Kalamos allowed himself to also drown. He then transformed into a water reed.

It is said that the sound of rustling reeds is Kalamos lamenting the loss of Karpos.

Walt Whitman's "Calamus" poems in Leaves of Grass may have been inspired by this story.

Etymology of the word Kalamos

Cognates can be found in Sanskrit ("kalama", meaning "reed" and "pen" as well as a sort of rice) and Latin ("calamus"), suggesting the word originates in Proto-Indo European, the parent language of the three. The Arabic word "qalam" (meaning "pen" or "reed pen") is likely to have been borrowed from one of these languages in antiquity, or directly from Indo-European itself. The Swahili word "kalamu" ("pen") comes from the Arabic "qalam".

From the Latin "calamus" come a number of modern English words:
* "calamus" (aka Sweet Flag), a wetland reed;
* "calamari", meaning "squid", via the Latin "calamarium", "ink horn" or "pen case", as reeds were then used as writing implements;
* "calumet", another name for the Native American peace pipe, which was often made from a hollow reed;
* "shawm", a medieval oboe-like instrument (whose sound is produced by a vibrating reed mouthpiece);
* "chalumeau" register, the lower notes of a clarinet's range (another reed instrument).


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