Pro Urbe Seattlo

October 27, 2007

Once, as a young man, I used to study in dim halls, exerting myself in, clad in toga, among the rocks and lilies and redundant light rail systems which as you all know then were the hallmarks of my city. I would go down to the plain, clad in my own virtue, in one hand wielding a naked gladius, in the other, some choice drink, on my brow, the branch from the Minervan tree, and do battle with words and sword, ever for the honor of the city, the city, the city! Dare I turn my pen now to her defence? Dare I fight the rash of journalistic timidity now rife upon YS, brought about by my arch-rival, a man too cowardly to be named, a base and cruel plebian of the worst sort, the Catilinian? I do and in so doing, join with the Rabbi Doctor, a most notable and most honorable comrade, one worthy of the highest honors that may be rightly given to a barbaros, not only in praising the commonly acknowledged Golden Age that was, but also in looking to strive now in this hard age of iron for manly courage and civic grandeur. In short, let us together eat a peach.

       While faced with grim exile brought about nefarious crimes far too evil to describe, tidings have reached me of my home. Once, in 1995, my city was the fairest gem in the imperium. In those days, gods masqueraded as mortal men upon the basketball court. It be not right, to name them. More storied than the men of Pindar, more virile than Cato the censor, more cultured than Scipio Africanus, these were hard obdurate men carved out off soft Seattle stone. Yet like us, their memory is as naught, long swept away by the grim Parci, who measure out and spin the cords of life into emptiness. Would that such Gods now walked and saw that great evils that men do to their name! Specifically, I  speak of the incident well known to all, in which that madman of a land whose name I dare not utter, because of its unseemly sound, wishes to snatch away all the glory and the praise and manly virtue which has so long embedded itself in the heart of our fair city. For want of what! This man, too greedy and filthy to name, has Greeked away his fortune and his virtue, spending on unholy luxuries and nefarious rites, now wishes to recoup on his investment through the erection of a new stadium. Would that his erection for the unholy would recede! Is he not associated with our laws? Has his reason failed him? Does he not know that the money of our urbs is, by proscription of the optimus maximus, only to be spent upon useless light rail lines? He seeks to hold us hostage with his threats. But, we and they, will not be moved, we are obdurate hard men, the sort who cover ourselves in blood and impregnate our wives once a year. Take your soft, impious, ways from our city. Begone foul scoundrel!  Criminal worse than all that have been conjured through all the years, bringing sedition and destruction to the Populum Seattlorum, begone thou half witted son of a Judean prostitute! We want none of your wheelings and dealings in our city, go out and lose your fortune in ways most fitting to your foolish and lowly pride! Yet, even in that it is necessary for our people to expel this strange and unelegant monster from our midst, it is sad day for our people, to see such a once glorious basketball team fall so low such that they must play in such a location.

Although Dash doesn’t exactly believe in goals, one of the original ideas of the word of the day column was to serve as a primer to academic English, to serve as a quasi-mediator between the common parlance of the teeming, toiling American masses (i.e. decepticate, river-v) and the sublime, sub-prime jargon of academia (i.e. deseutude) whilst providing a(n) history of the idiom. To that end, I’ve probably gone astray, becoming the embodiment of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a lexicographer: “a pestilential fellow who, under the pretense of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what can to arrest its growth.”

Certainly I haven’t proven myself to be as good a lexicographer as Bierce who divined this terrific definition of “orphan”:

A living person whom death has deprived of the power of filial ingratitude — a privation appealing with a particular eloquence to all that is sympathetic in human nature. When young the orphan is commonly sent to an asylum, where by careful cultivation of its rudimentary sense of locality it is taught to know its place. It is then instructed in the arts of dependence and servitude and eventually turned loose to prey upon the world as a bootblack or scullery maid. (From The Devil’s Dictionary)

But like the Houston Light Rail, which after struggling through idiotic Houston drivers (video evidence to follow),

has not only gotten approval for major expansion but managed to create a new paradigm for light rail growth (care of the terrific Overhead Wire blog), Dash will hereafter endeavor to palimpsest (verb. trans. to write again…after the original writing has been effaced; to overwrite (an earlier text). Usu. in pass. Also fig) and will return to the occasional practical word.

Today’s word is “encomium.” An encomium is a very high-flown expression of praise, eulogy or panegyric. The word is derived from the greek {elenis}{gamma}{kappa}{gwacu}{mu}{iota}{omicron}{nu} meaning eulogy, and is was a favourite of Jacques Derrida. There are also two obsolete verbs relating to “encomium.” 1) “encomionize” meaning “To pronounce an encomium upon; to eulogize”; 2) “encomiate”, meaning, “To pronounce an encomium upon; to extol, commend.” That is to say, one encomionizes someone who has passed away, and encomiates someone who is till alive.

So let us now (not) praise famous men and resist 150houst.jpgthe urge to encomiate, but instead encomionize. As the joke goes, “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Though Houston might have gotten approval for their plans, given the failure of Houston drivers, it probably would have been better if they had built the monorail, or at least consider elevating some of the light rail.