After yesterday's mega-post, I'm keeping it super short tonight with a brief discussion of a single word: xenium.
A xenium, according to The Phrontistery, is "a gift made to a guest or ambassador; any compulsory gift." The related term, "xenial," means "of or concerning hospitality toward guests."
In Natalie Zemon Davis's book "The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France," she notes that "xenium" is a Greco-Roman term signifying "a gift to make a friend of a stranger."
Heather at The Word Blog further elaborates that in the medieval period, xenia were "gifts given by subjects to visiting princes and landholders." She adds, "You might think that this custom is now extinct, but I’m sure it must be directly connected to the bottle of wine we apartment dwellers give our landlords each New Year with the hope that they will continue to promptly attend to any plumbing woes that may beset us in future."
I see a lot of story potential in the concept of xenia. I'm wondering about the potential paradox entailed in the concept of a compulsory gift. If it isn't freely given, is it still a gift?
(By the way, if you're still looking for an "X" word, there's a list of unusual ones at the Phrontistery. I was tempted by xenogenesis until I remembered Octavia Butler already used it, and I am still interested in xanthocyanopsy.)