Thursday, May 19, 2011

eo ipso

eo ipso [ˈeɪoʊ ˈɪpsoʊ] advb. phr.

1.) By that very act (or quality); through that alone; thereby (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Latin, ablative of id ipsum, that (thing) itself.

"It is part of the definitions of a soldier or a servant that they have certain duties; a servant who acts contrary to his master's wishes or interests is eo ipso a bad servant, and a soldier whose conduct is conducive to the losing of wars by his side is eo ipso a bad soldier" (Theories of Ethics, Philippa Foot, 1968).

Dear readers, MA will be taking a short break for the next few days because my parents are visiting from the States and we're embarking on a whirlwind tour of Britain. Don't worry, though, I'll be blogging your faces off when I get back!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


uxorious [ʌkˈsɔriəs] a.

1.) Of persons: Dotingly or submissively fond of a wife; devotedly attached to a wife.
2.) Fig. (of inanimate objects, etc.).
3.) Of actions, etc.: Marked or characterized by excessive affection for one's wife (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: From Latin uxorius, from uxor, wife.

"With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians called
Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs;
In Sion also not unsung, where stood
Her temple on th' offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king whose heart, though large,
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell
To idols foul" (Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667).

The Queen of Sheba Kneeling before King Solomon, Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, ~1790

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


bedizen [bɪˈdaɪzən] v. t.

1.) To dress out, especially in a vulgar or gaudy fashion (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Possibly Middle Dutch disen, to prepare a distaff with flax for spinning, from Middle Low German dise, disene, bunch of flax.

"Prithee, young one, who art thou, and what has ailed thy mother to bedizen thee in this strange fashion? Art thou a Christian child,—ha? Dost know thy catechism? Or art thou one of those naughty elfs or fairies whom we thought to have left behind us, with other relics of Papistry, in merry old England?" (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850).

There we go, a nice Dutch word. There's my answer to those critics who claimed I was only promoting French words. But there does seem to be some truth in the claim that high-status, literary words tend to be French. Interestingly, there also seems to be a deeply-rooted bitterness about this very fact: the complicated, ambivalent relationship between the English and the French in a nutshell. Of course, there also seems to be a combination of respect and disdain for the use of high-status words simpliciter. But that's something of an uncomfortable subject for me.

Monday, May 16, 2011


insouciant [ɪnˈsusiənt] a.

1.) Careless, indifferent, unconcerned.

Etymology: French : in-, not (from Old French) + souciant, present participle of soucier, to trouble (from Old French, from Vulgar Latin sollicitare, to vex).

"Of all vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences. What race would not be indolent and insouciant when things are so arranged, that they derive no advantage from forethought or exertion?" (Principles of Political Economy, John Stuart Mill, 1848).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rhetoric - anaphora

anaphora [əˈnæfərə] n.

1.) Rhetoric. The emphatic repetition of a sound, word, or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, verses, or sentences (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: Latin anaphora, adoption of Greek ἀναϕορά, a carrying back, from ἀνά, back + ϕέρειν, to bear.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." ("I Have A Dream", Martin Luther King Jr., 1963).

Here is the second installment of my "Sunday rhetoric" feature. Last week's was on metonymy, in case you missed it. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

lacrimae rerum

lacrimae rerum [ˈlækrɪmaɪ rɛərəm] n.

1.) With reference to Virgil, Aeneid i. 462: the sadness of life; tears shed for the sorrows of men (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Latin, literally tears (for the nature) of things.

"Constitit, et lacrimans, 'Quis iam locus' inquit 'Achate,
quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?
En Priamus! Sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi;
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
Solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem'"
(Aeneis, Publius Vergilius Maro, 19 BCE).

"Aeneas came to a halt and wept, and 'Oh, Achates,'
he cried, 'is there anywhere, any place on earth
not filled with our ordeals? There's Priam, look!
Even here, merit will have its true reward…
even here, the world is a world of tears
and the burdens of morality touch the heart.
Dismiss your fears. Trust me, this fame of ours
will offer us some haven'" (The Aeneid, Robert Fagles (trans.), 2006).

Virgil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia, Jean-Joseph Taillasson, 1787

I know this doesn't obey my rule of giving a quotation in English by a famous author. But I thought it would be cool to look at the actual origin of the phrase. (I could have given one, by the way: Thomas Carlyle, Aldous Huxley, and W. H. Auden are all quoted in the OED's entry.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011


lassitude [ˈlæsɪˌtud, -ˌtyud] n.

1.) The condition of being weary whether in body or mind; a flagging of the bodily or mental powers; indifference to exertion; weariness; an instance of this (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin lassitudo, from lassus, weary.

"That when a thing lies still, unlesse somewhat els stirre it, it will lye still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of. But that when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion, unless somewhat els stay it, though the reason be the same, (namely, that nothing can change it selfe,) is not so easily assented to. For men measure, not onely other men, but all other things, by themselves: and because they find themselves subject after motion to pain, and lassitude, think every thing els growes weary of motion, and seeks repose of its own accord; little considering, whether it be not some other motion, wherein that desire of rest they find in themselves, consisteth" (Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, 1651).

Leviathan: Title Page, Abraham Bosse, 1651

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


ebullition [ˌɛbəˈlɪʃən] n.

1.) A boiling or bubbling up of a liquid; the motion produced in a liquid by its rapid conversion into vapor.
2.) Effervescence occasioned by fermentation or by any other process which causes the liberation of a gas or an aeriform fluid, as in the mixture of an acid with a carbonated alkali.
3.) A sudden burst or violent display; an outburst; as, an ebullition of anger or ill temper.

Etymology: Middle English ebullitioun, from Late Latin ebullitio, ebullition-, from Latin ebullitus, past participle of ebullire, to bubble up.

"My father, in this patient endurance of wrongs, which I mention, was very different, as the reader must long ago have noted; he had a much more acute and quick sensibility of nature, attended with a little soreness of temper; tho' this never transported him to any thing which looked like malignancy:—yet in the little rubs and vexations of life, 'twas apt to shew itself in a drollish and witty kind of peevishness:—He was, however, frank and generous in his nature;—at all times open to conviction; and in the little ebullitions of this subacid humour towards others, but particularly towards my uncle Toby, whom he truly loved:—he would feel more pain, ten times told (except in the affair of my aunt Dinah, or where an hypothesis was concerned) than what he ever gave" (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne, 1759).

Tristram Shandy, a Bay Racehorse Held by a Groom, in an Extensive Landscape, George Stubbs, 1760

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


celerity [səˈlɛrɪti] n.

1.) Rapidity of motion; quickness; swiftness (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: French célérité, from Old French, from Latin celeritas, from celer, swift.

"The uncommon abilities and fortune of Severus have induced an elegant historian to compare him with the first and greatest of the Caesars. The parallel is, at least, imperfect. Where shall we find, in the character of Severus, the commanding superiority of soul, the generous clemency, and the various genius, which could reconcile and unite the love of pleasure, the thirst of knowledge, and the fire of ambition? In one instance only, they may be compared, with some degree of propriety, in the celerity of their motions, and their civil victories" (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, Edward Gibbon, 1776).
Septime Sévère et Caracalla, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1796

Hello readers, sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. I had my big Symbolic Logic exam in the afternoon, and I was still studying in the morning (which is when I usually do my blogging). As it turned out, I think I spent too much time studying—the exam was pretty straightforward. Anyway, now I just have to complete my thesis and I'll be a Master of Philosophical Studies!

Also, I'd like to give a shout out to Rob and Astronomy Pirate, who nominated me for a blogging award. Check out their blogs!

Finally, I received my first negative comment yesterday. It wasn't about my blog, but about one of my comments on someone else's blog. I have a very sardonic sense of humor, and so I apologize in advance if I offend any of you on your blogs. I wouldn't bother to comment if I wasn't already a fan!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rhetoric - metonymy

metonymy [mɪˈtɒnəmi] n.

1.) A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it; as, we say, a man keeps a good table instead of good provisions; we read Virgil, that is, his poems; a man has a warm heart, that is, warm affections; a city dweller has no wheels, that is, no automobile (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Late Latin metonymia, from Greek metonumia : meta-, meta- + onuma, name.

"Doubtful it stood,
As two spent swimmers that do cling together
And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald—
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villainies of nature
Do swarm upon him—from the Western Isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show'd like a rebel's whore. But all's too weak;
For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like Valor's minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave,
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements" (The Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare, ~1605).

The Night of Enitharmon's Joy, William Blake, 1795

I've decided to start a regular feature: I'll be defining rhetorical terms every Sunday, until we know them all. The main difference is that I'll be providing examples of the rhetorical device in action, instead of uses of the term. Hope you guys enjoy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


sinuous [ˈsɪnyuəs] a.

1.) Characterized by or abounding in turns, curves, or sinuosities; sinuate, curving.
2.) (Transferred sense) Intricate, complex; roundabout.
3.) (Figurative) Deviating from the right; not straight-forward or direct; morally crooked.
4.) Of movements: Taking place in curves.
5.) Of animals: Moving with supple bends of the body. Also of people.
6.) (Quasi-adverb) Sinuously (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: From Latin sinuosus, from sinus, curve.

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery" (Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1816).

I'd like to give a shout out to Wintermute, who runs a great blog for people teaching English abroad, and generously linked to MA (don't worry, Wintermute, a permanent link will be along shortly). For those that are interested, the definitive documentary about the English language was called "The Story of English" and it ran on PBS and the BBC in 1986. The DVDs are hard to come by, but luckily you can watch the whole thing on YouTube. Here's the first part of the first episode:

Friday, May 6, 2011


droll [droʊl] a.

1.) Intentionally facetious, amusing, comical, funny.
2.) Unintentionally amusing; queer, quaint, odd, strange, ‘funny’.

droll [droʊl] n.

1.) A funny or waggish fellow; a merry-andrew, buffoon, jester, humorist.

droll [droʊl] v. t.

1.) To make sport or fun; to jest, joke; to play the buffoon. Construed with 'with', 'at', 'on', 'upon'.
2.) To jest (a thing) away, off; to bring forth after the manner of a jester or buffoon (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: French drôle, buffoon, from Old French drolle, bon vivant, possibly from Middle Dutch drol, goblin.

"— Boris: We're here to see the Emperor.
— Guard: Who is calling?
— Boris: [Laughs nervously] Who is calling?
— Sonja: [Laughs] Ooh, well that's droll!
— Boris: Droll, yes. Apparently he's not familiar with the list of the hundred most important Spanishers.
— Sonja: Yes, it is only Don Francesco and his sister.
— Boris: Yes, this is the...the Donessa.
— Sonja: We have an appointment with Napoleon.
— Boris: That's right. Napoleon Bonaparte, the noted international tyrant" (Love and Death, Woody Allen, 1975).

(Pierrot et Arlequin, Paul Cézanne, 1888)

I tried to give my blog a little more sex appeal yesterday after noticing how good DEZMOND's Hollywood Spy looks. Let me know what you guys think (I put some pictures on the right, if you scroll down). James Murray, for those who don't know, was one of the first editors of the OED. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


velleity [vəˈliɪti] n.

1.) The fact or quality of merely willing, wishing, or desiring, without any effort or advance towards action or realization.
2.) A mere wish, desire, or inclination without accompanying action or effort (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: New Latin velleitas, from Latin velle, to wish.

"The consonance of the High Renaissance
Is present, though distorted by the mirror.
What is novel is the extreme care in rendering
The velleities of the rounded reflecting surface
(It is the first mirror portrait),
So that you could be fooled for a moment
Before you realize the reflection
Isn't yours" (Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, John Ashbery, 1975).

I like this new development of people making requests. So, if anyone has a word they want defined by the OED (since not everyone has access to it), and located in a literary source (and pronounced) by yours truly, feel free to ask. Try to keep it within the bounds of something you would actually write in a paper, though. I don't want my blog turning into Luciferous Logolepsy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


frisson [friˈsõʊ; Fr. friˈsɔ] n.

1.) A moment of intense excitement; a shudder (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French, from Old French fricons, pl. of fricon, a trembling, from Vulgar Latin frictio, friction-, from Latin frigare, to be cold.

"Most English-speakers are aware that the French—indefatigable trend-spotters—have picked up words such as le weekend, un snack and le club; and as a result of this quest for novelty French is rife with anglicisms. The French feel the same frisson from saying le smoking (meaning a tux) that English speakers feel from saying frisson" (The Pillars of Hercules, Paul Theroux, 1995).

I know, another French word. But I heard this one the other day (Rob Brydon said it on "Would I Lie to You", actually) and I've never quite been sure what it meant, so I wanted to sort it out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


limn [lɪm] v. t.

1.) To draw or paint; especially, to represent in an artistic way with pencil or brush.
2.) Hence: To picture in words; to describe in graphic terms.
3.) To illumine, as books or parchments, with ornamental figures, letters, or borders (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English limnen, to illuminate (a manuscript), probably alteration (influenced by limnour, illustrator), of luminen from Old French luminer, from Latin luminare, to illuminate, adorn, from lumen, lumin-, light.

"Let a painter carelessly limn out a million of faces, and you shall find them all different; yes, let him have his copy before him, yet, after all his art, there will remain a sensible distinction: for the pattern or example of everything is the perfectest in that kind, whereof we still come short, though we transcend or go beyond it; because herein it is wide, and agrees not in all points unto its copy" (Religio Medici, Thomas Browne, 1643).

Well, even after the debacle of last week, I'll be watching El Dramatico tonight and hoping Real can pull off a miracle. If nothing else, Iniesta should play, so Barca might do more than just obsessively keep the ball.

Monday, May 2, 2011


slough [slaʊ for 1 and 2, slu for 3] n.

1.) A piece of soft, miry, or muddy ground; esp. a place or hole in a road or way filled with wet mud or mire and impassable by heavy vehicles, horses, etc.
2.) A state or condition (esp. of moral degradation) in which a person, etc., sinks or has sunk.
3.) (Also slew) a side channel of a river, or a natural channel that is only sporadically filled with water (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Old English slóh (sló), of doubtful origin; perhaps ultimately related to slonk.

"It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience; always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, called by the Latins aes alienum, another's brass, for some of their coins were made of brass; still living, and dying, and buried by this other's brass; always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent; seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offenses; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him; making yourselves sick, that you may lay up something against a sick day, something to be tucked away in an old chest, or in a stocking behind the plastering, or, more safely, in the brick bank; no matter where, no matter how much or how little" (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854).

I've provided audio for the pronunciation of yesterday's word, a fortiori, for those who were interested (it's not me this time, because I'm unable to record at the moment). A simpler example of an a fortiori argument is something like: Bin Laden is dead, thus a fortiori he can't walk. Since he's dead, he can't do anything, so this "stronger" premise establishes a fortiori any number of "weaker" ones: he can't breathe, he can't sing, he can't dance, etc. Let me know if that clarifies things. Thanks for your interest and for keeping me honest!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

a fortiori

a fortiori [ɑ ˌfoʊrtɪˈoʊri] adv.

1.) For a still stronger reason; all the more (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Latin : a, ab, from + fortiori, ablative of fortior, stronger.

"Of course one way of putting the deterministic case is to say that we are never really able to choose at all (and a fortiori never able to choose freely), and that this is so simply because we are determined. But it is much better to put the determinist case by saying that although we are certainly able to make choices, we never really choose freely, i.e. in a such a way that we are truly responsible for our choices and for what we subsequently do" (Freedom and Belief, Galen Strawson, 1986).

This one is a bit technical, I guess, but I'd like to eventually cover all the philosophical jargon terms as well as all the different kinds of rhetoric. Just like all the other words here, make sure you are using it correctly (and sparingly), or it will end up doing you more harm than good.