…The Bad Ones Just Go on Forever
October 27, 2007
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 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 the 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.