Saturday, December 17, 2011


maunder [ˈmɔndər] v. i. also mander

1.) To grumble, mutter or growl. Obs.
2.) To move or act in a dreamy, idle, or inconsequent manner. Construed with along, away.
3.) To talk in the dreamy and foolish manner characteristic of dotage or imbecility; to ramble or wander in one's talk (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Of obscure origin; perhaps imitative: with senses 2 and 3 cf. dander (v.).

"First, in the old days, when I was sick to death
with the horror of my life,
when I lusted to be driven into exile,
you refused that favor—for all my prayers.
But then, when I'd had my fill of rage at last
and living on in the old ancestral house seemed sweet...
then you were all for cutting, casting me away—
these ties of blood you maunder on about
meant nothing to you then."
(Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Robert Fagles (trans.), 1979)

(Oedipus at Colonus, Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust, 1788)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

hortus conclusus

hortus conclusus [ˈhɔːtəs kənˈkluːsəs] n.

1.) An enclosed, inviolate garden; in spiritual and exegetical tradition, the symbol of the soul, the Church, or the virginity of Mary. In Art, a painting of the Madonna and Child in an enclosed garden. Frequently in transferred sense (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition).

Etymology: Latin, = enclosed garden, in reference to Song of Solomon 4.12.

"The heart of man is hortus, it is a garden, a Paradise, where all that is wholesome, and all that is delightful grows, but it is hortus conclusus, a garden that we ourselves have walled in; it is fons, a fountain, where all knowledge springs, but fons signatus, a fountain that our corruption hath sealed up" (John Donne, "Sermons No. 13: Preached to the Earl of Carlisle, and his Company, at Sion, on Mark 16.16", ~1622).

(Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor, Gerard David, ~1507)

Thanks to Bibi for bringing this one to my attention; I hadn't heard it before. I couldn't find a pronunciation, though. Can you record an mp3 and I'll post it for everyone? Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 9, 2011


cavil [ˈkævəl] v. i.

1.) To find fault unnecessarily; raise trivial objections.

cavil v. t.

1.) To quibble about; detect petty flaws in.

cavil n.

1.) A carping or trivial objection (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French caviller, from Old French, from Latin cavillari, to jeer, from cavilla, a jeering.

Thy Justice seems; yet to say truth, too late,
I thus contest; then should have been refusd
Those terms whatever, when they were propos'd:
Thou didst accept them; wilt thou enjoy the good,
Then cavil the conditions?" (Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667).

(The Temptation and Fall of Eve, William Blake, 1808)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

memento mori

memento mori [məˈmɛntoʊ ˈmɔraɪ] n.

1.) A reminder of death or mortality, especially a death's-head.
2.) A reminder of human failures or errors (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: New Latin memento mori, be mindful of dying : Latin memento, sing. imperative of meminisse, to remember + Latin mori, to die.

"—Bardolph: Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.
—Falstaff: No, I'll be sworn; I make as good use of it as many
a man doth of a Death's-head or a memento mori: I
never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire and
Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his
robes, burning, burning" (Henry IV Part One, William Shakespeare, 1597)

(Youth with a Skull, Frans Hals, ~1627)


ataraxia [ˌætəˈræksiə] also ataraxy n.

1.) Freedom from disturbance of mind or passion; stoical indifference (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin ataraxia, adoption of Greek ἀταραξία, impassiveness, from ἀ, privative + ταράσσ-ειν, to disturb, stir up. Cf. French ataraxie.

"All science (and not just astronomy alone, the humiliating and degrading effects of which Kant singled out for the remarkable confession that 'it destroys my importance' ...), all science, natural as well as unnatural—this is the name I would give to the self-critique of knowledge—is seeking to talk man out of his former self-respect as though this were nothing but a bizarre piece of self-conceit; you could almost say that its own pride, its own austere form of stoical ataraxy, consisted in maintaining this laboriously won self-contempt of man as his last, most serious claim to self-respect (in fact, rightly so: for the person who feels contempt is always someone who 'has not forgotten how to respect'...)" (On the Genealogy of Morality by Friedrich Nietzsche, Carol Diethe (trans.), 1994).

(The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, ~1770)