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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Back To Word List #5

I have lately been accused of using sesquipedalian verbiage in my posts --not by everybody, but by one guy and that's enough. Sesquipedalian just means "lots of syllables", big. In 1966, one of my favorite pastimes was driving over to Willie's house and discussing words. That year, one of the favorite semantic tongue-twisters in general was Antidisestablishmentarianism.  As ususal, Will leaned back smiling in his well-cushioned bamboo chair and asked me what I thought of it. I said I thought it was a 12-jointed godless reptile of a word and had no idea what it meant. He proceeded to parse it out for me. Turned out it started in England had to do with something very important, separation of church and state --and had a fundamental impact worldwide. I think disestablishment won here. Who knows? Will phoned me two days ago from Sonoma and invited me to his 80th, so I'll ask him again.  But to dispel the erroneous notion that my vocabulary tends toward the sesqu... the big, here is a repost of one of a series of Word Lists that introduced my blog so long ago:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Word List #5

[For this installment of Word List, I selected as illustration a map painted by son David, depicting the character of his town, San Francisco.]



PRETTY:
This week, a friend in Sonoma wrote to inform me the Forbes Company had named his town one of the ten prettiest in the nation. As a parent, I disagree in principle with Forbes naming his town prettiest. It can only create resentment in other towns and cause them to grow up wrong. Nor does it help to divert admiration from Sonoma and say,"Oh, and here comes our dear little Bakersfield --she's at that oily, awkward stage, but such a nice personality." Also, showing off Sonoma while Cotati suffers a weight problem and her brother, Auburn, peevishly collects guns in the hills will just make her smug and give up on academics.

MYSTIC:
Unlike the example set by Sonoma's uncommunicative cousin, Richmond, not all mystics smell funny. That is a myth promulgated by his bookish, picayunish brothers, Berkeley and Davis, neither of whom gets out much. In truth, mystics seek the extraordinary experience of all-inclusive reality and bathe often as anybody else.

MYSTICISM:
As a belief or practice, mysticism forms around an enraptured, ineffable state --an ecstatic identification of the self in relation to all things, all events. This sense of totality is expressed by such phrases as,"All is one" and "One is all." You may recognize this as the motto of Alexandre Dumas's THE THREE MUSKETEERS --"tous pour un, un pour tous!"-- a novel demonstrating the need for mystics to be really good swordfighters.

DOES:
Of course, pretty is as pretty does, which is generally pleasant and I have exaggerated its schismatic potential. But what more effectively causes regional schism is political misbehavior seeking divisions along religio-ethnic lines, and among those who confuse race with phenotype --a problem that cannot be exaggerated. Where that happens I, like Richmond, go mystic: There is only one surviving human race, and it is all of us.  I usually hightail it before answering Jeremiads start their signatory rumbles --except this time. And maybe I smell a little funny too.

  1. I find the work of both father and son enlightening, provocative and delightful, showing once again that a thousand words (more or less) can be as much fun as one picture.
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  2. Thanks Will. I'm planning to get a new car and will visit your pretty town again. Even I need to feel pretty sometimes.
    I include Willie's comment to the original text of my blog-glossary because its relevance is undiminished by the years. 
    *****************************************************************

    And to the other guy --who attacked my word usage-- and his toady who attacked my service to this country: people have big chunks of time they don't talk about. So don't prejudge (conclude ahead of facts). You might be ignorantly insulting someone whose patriotism is unimpeachable (can't be rescinded), and may have outranked you. Another good word: PEACE.

     

26 comments:

  1. Sesqui... is fun! Let's have fun!

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    1. Kind, intuitive Tom, yes, blogging SHOULD be fun and I'm adopting that as an axiom. Thanks!

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  2. Sigh. I have stepped away from the gentleman in question because of his attacks on people and concepts dear to me. Despite his protestations he isn't open to discussion. His way or the highway.
    And your joy in words, in kindness, and in whimsy (not to mention occasional excursions to silly city) keep me returning.

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    1. Thanks, EC. I like Silly City, where everybody is Mayor.

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  3. Jeremiads....whatd a great word. Okay, I'll admit I had to look it up but I'm glad I did. Sadly I may have fallen under that definition (maybe once..okay more than once). I like big words. I was always in trouble at school for using big words. After a while I stopped using them in public Peer pressure, what can I say?.

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    1. There's definitely a place for jeremiads in our world's current list of lamentations, just as there was in the days of the prophet whose name made the word.

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  4. The map is intriguing. A marvelous description of his vision of the town.

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    1. In the 20 years he has lived in San Francisco, the city has reinvented itself continuously. Although much of its regional character has changed since 2011, I still enjoy this map for the candor of his comments.

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    2. The longer the word, the less true meaning it has. I think it was E. Dickinson that said that. Or perhaps it was Whitman? Anyway, another insightful post. Sorry I have not been around lately, but this insane heat is driving me insane. How are you holding up?

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    3. Dylan, those two wonderful poets were contemporaries for 56 years and left great bodies of work. If they didn't say, "The longer the word, the less true meaning it has", then it's the only darn thing they didn't say. It's finally cooling to where I don't get burnt on the back doorknob here --holding up fine, hope you are too!

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  5. Like a good Sonoma (or Paso Robles) wine, the post aged well. The map is terrific! Your word play is simply nutritional fun! Thanks.

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    1. Kind Tom, thank You. Lately, I've been buying from Woodbridge Winery in nearby Lodi. They have a cabernet that is my favorite this year.

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  6. Ah, what fun! (both the map and the post)

    I believe birthday greetings are in order for Willie? Sounds like a worthy wordsmith companion for you.

    And, finally, yes - we don't all put everything about ourselves on our blogs. Even if it seems we do :)

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    1. O_Jenny, I have retained Willie's services as my grammarian (which he offers pro bono) since he was my English teacher in high school --and will gladly pass your birthday greeting on to him. And yes, there are many avenues of public service and security that are not in public record.

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  7. Hello Geo. I haven't been around much on the blogging scene lately so thought I would pop by and say hello. Which I have done. How is the drought situation? Is situation the right word? Maybe circumstance? John.

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    1. So glad to hear from you, John! Pumphouse themometer reads 31C right now, and that is an improvement, whether circumstantial or situational I don't know but am happy about both.

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  8. Big words are fun, impressive and certainly more interesting than the four letter ones that seem to have taken over our once polite society. However, in this past year there seems a need to utter more of these simple words because of how unkind and frightening the world we live in has become.

    I have only visited Sonoma once but it is indeed a very beautiful place.

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    1. It is indeed beautiful, Arleen. And yes, the fun of language has been lately assaulted by morally caustic discourse. I am so grateful for minds like yours --the world is full of beautiful languages-- we can be strong and preserve politeness and respect for others. You are a role model for me and all you reach out to.

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  9. I am a bit of a logophile, so this post gave me much joy. :)

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    1. Dear Lori, thanks for encouraging a fellow logophile. I will now go look up "logophile" --which probably means I am one already. Yep, we're in accord there.

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  10. Great fun, Geo. I used to think, during the latter '60s at university, that "antidisestablishmentarianism" meant opposition from institutions that wanted to suppress my idealistic generation with it cries of "Make love, not war" and its marches for peace and civil rights and Mary Jane.

    But as a second and third grade teacher working with syllables, I wisely chose "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" which was easier to explain and had a more uplifting meaning, plus the added benefit of two more syllables and six more letters! Then, of course, we could have a race to see how many other multi-syllable words could be made from "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" in five minutes, followed by a compiled list to calculate syllables from, followed by dancing along to Mary Poppins and Bert singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to clear our heads.

    Once I had a gifted student stick "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on the end of a spelling test in the hopes of getting bonus points. I gave him a couple and commented that he could have earned more if he had syllabilized it. I created a monster! I had a run of all sorts of kids putting adding all sorts of syllabilized words at the ends of their tests. But I gave them all extra points either for accuracy or creativity! LOL sometimes I truly miss teaching.

    I would go along with a little "sesquipedalian verbiage" in their writing, but mostly I wanted them to focus on strong verbs and precise nouns and to realized that they always had to consider the audience and purpose for which they were writing.

    Have a good one, my funny friend!

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    1. Louise, "Mary Poppins" is one of my all-time favorite films. I bought the soundtrack LP when it came out in the '60s and, when the film was re-released in the '70s, took my kids to see it on the big screen. Its message was so magical and full of compassion that I suspect it influenced a lot of people to explore those qualities in real life. Consider songs like "Feed The Birds", "Sister Suffragette", "Let's Go Fly A Kite": the film was a work of love. It also crystallized and preserved its excellent performers at the height of their talents. It was lively, gentle and its influence will never end. It was a great teacher and so are you.

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    2. I so loved the movie Mary Poppins, and if the full truth be told, I usually found a way to work it into my curriculum at some point during the year!

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    3. Understandable, and laudable.

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  11. I love words, and love to learn new ones, which is part of the reason I've been addicted to the NY Times Sunday puzzles for so many years. Language is one of the few things that separates us from the other animals on the planet, so why not make the most of it? There's nothing wrong with using long words. Your blog... your words.

    As for antidisestablishmentarianism, when I was in early elementary school, I liked to speed-spell that word. I can still rattle it off without thinking. Yeah, I was a weird kid...

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    1. Dear Susan, I got to learning unusual and long words from my mother when I was a kid. She had taught high school English, Spanish and Latin in Oklahoma for 6 years before she came west to Berkeley in 1939, met my Portuguese father --a liberal from Stanford-- and I was born 10 years later. Not quite a whirlwind romance --WWII got in the way-- but, for purely selfish reasons, I'm glad they met. Sadly, I'm an awful speller in several languages, but wouldn't have missed my upbringing for the world.

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