Word of the Day

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ciceronian

[ sis-uh-roh-nee-uhn ]

adjective

characterized by melodious language, clarity, and forcefulness of presentation, as in the style of Cicero: Ciceronian invective.

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What is the origin of Ciceronian?

The adjective Ciceronian comes from Latin Cicerōniānus “pertaining to Cicero,” an adjective coined by the Stoic author and philosopher Seneca. The Roman orator, statesman, and man of letters Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 b.c.) made Roman oratory the equal of Greek, especially of Demosthenes, the last great Athenian orator, as Greek rhetoricians themselves admitted. Ancient critics said of the styles of Demosthenes and Cicero that Demosthenes was so lean and spare that nothing could be taken away, that Cicero was so full and ample that nothing could be added. For as long as Latin was the chief cultural language of Western civilization (up to the 18th or 19th century), Cicero in prose (like Vergil in poetry) was held up as a model to be imitated or an idol to be cast down. There are still several million former teenagers who after a martini or two can recite from memory the opening sentence of Cicero’s First Oration Against Catiline from their junior year in high school: Quō ūsque tandem abūtēre, Catilīna, patientiā nostrā? (“How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?”) Ciceronian entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is Ciceronian used?

… those who could not follow her reasoning were nonetheless able to enjoy her Ciceronian eloquence. “She spoke like an angel,” one of the Frenchmen commented.

Massimo Mazzotti, "From Genius to Witch: The Rise and Fall of a Filosofessa," Los Angeles Review of Books, July 11, 2018

Its rhetoric was powerful, even Ciceronian, I thought, with the grand sweep of its opening line: “Great triumphs and great tragedies can redirect the course of a people’s destiny.”

Willem Marx, "Misinformation intern," Harper's Magazine, August 23, 2019
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

epistolary

[ ih-pis-tl-er-ee ]

adjective

contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.

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What is the origin of epistolary?

English epistolary comes from the Latin adjective epistulāris (also epistolāris), a derivative of the noun epistula (epistola) “a letter, a dispatch, a written communication, an epistle (as in the New Testament).” Epistula comes from Greek epistolḗ, which has the same meanings. An epistolary novel is one that is composed in a series of documents, usually (private) letters, but also diary entries, newspaper articles, and other documents. Such novels were especially popular in the 18th century, e.g., in England, Pamela by Samuel Richardson (1740); in France, Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782); and in Germany, The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774). Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel Dracula, published in 1897, and continuously in print ever since, has attained a kind of immortality. Epistolary entered English in the 17th century.

how is epistolary used?

Her imaginative epistolary novel opens with Johanna’s engagement to Theo in 1888 and winds its way through the avant-garde Paris art scene ….

Sarah Ferguson, "Johanna: A Novel of the van Gogh Family," New York Times, June 4, 1995

Their disagreement lay dormant for nearly two decades, during which time their epistolary friendship flourished ….

Nathan Goldman, "'I Don't Know If This Letter Will Reach You': The Letters of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem," Los Angeles Review of Books, March 12, 2019
Tuesday, September 10, 2019

slubber

[ sluhb-er ]

verb (used with object)

to perform hastily or carelessly.

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What is the origin of slubber?

Slubber  is an older, infrequent verb that means “to perform (something) hastily or carelessly.” Earlier senses include “to smear; smudge” and “to sully (a reputation, etc.).” Slubber comes from Low German slubbern “to do work carelessly” and appears to be related to slabber and the more familiar slobber “to let saliva run from the mouth,” with an earlier sense of “to eat in a hasty, messy manner”—an unfastidious trio of terms forming one “sloppy” family. Slubber entered English in the early 1500s.

how is slubber used?

Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio …

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1600

It must be “slubber’d o’er in haste,”—its important preliminaries left to the cold imagination of the reader—its fine spirit perhaps evaporating for want to being embodied in words.

Caroline Kirkland, Western Clearings, 1845

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