Monday, December 31, 2012


falstaffian [fɔlˈstæfiən] a.

1.) Characterized by joviality and conviviality (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: After Sir John Falstaff, a character in Henry IV, Parts I and II, and The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.

"An affable Irregular,
A heavily-built Falstaffian man,
Comes cracking jokes of civil war
As though to die by gunshot were
The finest play under the sun."
("Meditations in Time of Civil War", William Butler Yeats, 1923)

(Falstaff in the Laundry Basket, Henri Fuseli, 1792)

Friday, December 28, 2012


raisonneur [ˌrɛz əˈnɜr] n.

1.) A character in a play, etc., who gives expression to the author's message, standpoint, or philosophy (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, lit. ‘one who reasons or argues’.

"What is the true role of the raisonneurs, and what do they stand for? There is a distinct family likeness between the two Aristes (in L'Ecole des maris and Les Femmes savantes), Chrysalde (L'Ecole des femmes), Cleante (Tartuffe), and Beralde (Le Malade imaginaire): all of these are mature characters 'd'un certain age', standing somewhat to one side of the dramatic action, but showing a sympathetic interest in the fortunes of the central figure, with whom they are connected by family ties or by longstanding friendship" (Moliere: A Playwright and His Audience, W. D. Howarth, 1982).

(Louis XIV et Molière, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1863)

Thursday, December 27, 2012


scarify [ˈskær əˌfaɪ] v.t.

1.) To make shallow cuts in (the skin), as when vaccinating.
2.) To create a design on (the skin) by means of shallow cuts that are sometimes rubbed with a colorant or irritant to enhance the resulting scar tissue.
3.) To break up the surface of (topsoil or pavement).
4.) To distress deeply, as with severe criticism; lacerate.
5.) Botany. To slit or soften the outer coat of (seeds) in order to speed germination (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Middle English scarifien, from Old French scarifier, from Late Latin scarificare, alteration of Latin scarifare, from Greek σκαρῑϕᾶσθαι, recorded in the senses ‘to scratch an outline, sketch lightly, to do anything slightly or slovenly’ from σκάρῑϕος, pencil, stylus.

"Critics continue to disagree about the tone and meaning of Troilus and Cressida. The modern theatre has decided firmly, and surely rightly, that the play is a brilliant but scarifying vision of a world in pieces, all value and coherence gone. Despite its energy and wit, the picture of man which it presents is pessimistic almost to the point of nihilism" ("General Introduction" to The Riverside Shakespeare, Anne Barton, 1974).

(Eine Szene vom Troilus und Cressida, Angelica Kauffman, 1789)

Friday, December 21, 2012


entrain [ɛnˈtreɪn] v.t.

1.) To draw away with or after oneself; in early use fig. to bring on as a consequence; in mod. use lit. but rare.
2.) Of a fluid: to carry (particles) along by its flow; specifically of steam which carries along particles of water through a pipe or particles of sugar from an evaporating pan during the manufacture of sugar; also, to incorporate (air-bubbles) in concrete (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adaptation of French entraîner, from en- (Latin inde), away + traîner, to drag.

"That infancy looketh forward and age backward; was it not that which Janus his double visage signified? yeares entraine me if they please: but backward. As far as mine eyes can discerne that faire expired season, by fits I turne them thitherward" (The Essayes of Lord Michaell de Montaigne, John Florio (trans.), 1603).

Allegoria del tempo (Chronos ed Eros), Johann Schönfeld, ~1630

Monday, December 3, 2012

verbum sap

verbum sap [ˈvɜr bəm ˈsæp] int.

1.) A phrase used in place of making a full statement or explanation, implying that an intelligent person may easily infer what is left unsaid, or understand the reasons for reticence. Also frequently further abbreviated to verb sap (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Abbreviation of Latin verbum sapienti sat est, "a word is sufficient for a wise person." The proverb echoes a line from Plautus's Persa: Dictum sapienti sat est, "A sentence is enough for a sensible man."

"(Mem., under what circumstances would I not avoid the pit of hell?) Omnia Romœ venalia sunt. Hell has its price! verb. sap. If there be anything behind this instinct it will be valuable to trace it afterwards accurately, so I had better commence to do so, therefore—" (Dracula, Abraham Stoker, 1897).

(Vampyr, Edvard Munch, 1894)