Monday, November 7, 2011

break Priscian's head

break Priscian's head [ˈprɪʃiən] v. phr.

1.) To violate the rules of grammar (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: In the 6th century, Priscian wrote an 18-volume Latin grammar that was copied by almost every library in Europe and influenced writers for several centuries. He is reputed to have been so devoted to the study of grammar that making an error in his presence hurt him as much as a blow to the head.

"Quakers, that like to lanthorns, bear
Their light within them, will not swear;
Their gospel is an accidence,
By which they construe conscience,
And hold no sin so deeply red,
As that of breaking Priscian's head."
(Hudibras, Samuel Butler, 1684)

(The Cornell Farm, Edward Hicks, 1848)

Today's phrase in honor of Lemons Don't Make Lemonade, the winner (again) of the weekly contest. She wrote:
Even though the Roman Catholic church is one of the biggest religious institutions in the world, few true votaries remain within its inner circles. Devotion to the Word of God is no longer a prerequisite for modern day cardinals, who usually possess the legerdemain to amass financial wealth and the savoir-faire to charm their way to the Pope's throne. To quash the chances of their opponents, cardinals running for the papacy often resort to bribery. And since the cliche "money talks" often proves to be accurate, a dirty cardinal's chances are often not bad at all.
Nicely done again, Lemons. You used litotes rather than the word "litotes", but that's okay. That was back before the days of the Sunday rhetoric feature, so it was unclear what you were supposed to do. Also, this is your 5th victory, so you're the 1st winner of a prize! Congrats! Which book do you want? (I wonder how much shipping to Singapore is going to cost.) Well, let's take another week off since I haven't been blogging regularly again; hopefully I'll get back into it this week. Thanks for reading!


Lemons Don't Make Lemonade said...

I'm still wondering if my victory had anything to do with my nicely written comment two days ago.

I would like Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls. (I downloaded most of Plato's dialogues already, although I haven't started reading them.)

Thanks! I just moved back to Singapore yesterday, so I'll send you an email with my address.

Lemons Don't Make Lemonade said...

Also, this is now my favorite phrase ever. Seeing as I live in Singapore, I believe I will be able to attack everyone with it daily/hourly/pretty much every second of my life. My sister committed four grammar errors ALREADY and it's ONLY 8.50AM.

D4 said...

As soon as I saw you posted something.. I cursed. I forgot about the blog. Dammit.

I like this phrase. I feel no one will now what I mean and I'll have to explain it, but that goes for most of the words here anyway.

Meri said...

Well Mr Priscian must have been a stickler- probably not a lot of fun to be around haha!

gman said...

pussywhipped... Ahem sorry, yes I do beleive I was commenting on your post...

I honestly don't think Priscian has a head to break anymore. The plebians of the modern age have pounded his poor noggin until it is naught but dust. That includes me. Who needs priscian and his grammer when you can use fragments as sentences?

Jenny Woolf said...

I'm always impressed by Lemons. I am hopeless at contests like this. I had never heard of Priscian. I wonder if the word "precise" has any connection. I've never looked up the etymology.

Sonia said...

I swear I will use this today!

Henry said...

@Lemons: ahahaha does that have anything to do with the mess known as Singlish?

It'sJodie-Ann,Bro. said...

How does Lemons DO this?!

Shutterbug said...

I probably break Priscian's head all the time without knowing it...

Post a Comment