Word of the Day

Monday, June 24, 2019

ex cathedra

[ eks kuh-thee-druh, kath-i-druh ]

adjective, adverb

from the seat of authority; with authority.

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What is the origin of ex cathedra?

The relatively uncommon English adjective and adverb ex cathedra “from the seat (of authority), with authority” comes directly from the Latin phrase ex cathedrā. Latin cathedra “armchair with cushions, easy chair (especially for women), a teacher’s or professor’s chair, a sedan chair” is a loanword from Greek kathédra “seat, sitting posture, teacher’s or professor’s chair, imperial throne.” From cathedra Medieval Latin derived the adjective cathedrālis “pertaining to the chair or throne (of a bishop)”; the bishop’s church, where his throne was located, was called a cathedral church and later just cathedral. Ex cathedra entered English in the 17th century.

how is ex cathedra used?

There’s no way to maintain an ex cathedra advantage when you’re cavorting in a circus ring.

Virginia Heffernan, "When TV tries out new media, everyone can be a star," New York Times, January 1, 2009

Pope John once said, “I am not infallible. I am infallible only when I speak ex cathedra. But I shall never speak ex cathedra.”

Kati Marton, "The Paradoxical Pope," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1980
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Sunday, June 23, 2019

demur

[ dih-mur ]

verb (used without object)

to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.

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What is the origin of demur?

The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent’s proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

how is demur used?

Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket.

Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

… Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur.

Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960
Saturday, June 22, 2019

apologia

[ ap-uh-loh-jee-uh ]

noun

a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

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What is the origin of apologia?

It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

how is apologia used?

Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. … “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.”

Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state.

Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014

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