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Religion has been a powerful social force in human history.

As such, it has contributed to our vocabulary. This week we'll look at words, with at least some relation to religion, which are valuable for their broader meaning.

imprimatur – official approval; sanction
[New Latin imprimatur, 'let it be printed'; Roman Catholic Church's permission to print a book. Often used, as in two of our quotes, to imply the material should not be taken at face value]
    … the security analyst … may modify substantially the figures in the company's annual statements, even though they bear the sacred imprimatur of the certified public accountant. He is on the lookout particularly for items in these reports that may meal a good deal more or less than they say.
    – Benjamin Graham and Jason Zweig, The Intelligent Investor

    But without [President] Hoover's imprimatur, there would be no money for the land resettlement. The proposal that was the greatest boon to the Negro race since the Emancipation lay waiting and perhaps dying.
    – John M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

    Even The Economist, that sober periodical, gave its imprimatur to Milken's accomplishments in November 1986.
    – Connie Bruck, The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders
 
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The Latin permission to print brings to mind another phrase.

Q: When does NO mean yes?

When it stands for "Nihil obstat" or nothing stands in the way of publication. Thus approved texts often bore "N.O."


RJA
 
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voodoo – characterized by deceptively simple, almost magical, solutions or ideas; deceptive or delusive nonsense
[from Kwa (a Niger-Congo language), referring to a black religious cult practiced in the Caribbean and the southern US, combining elements of Roman Catholicism with traditional African rites; characterized by sorcery and spirit possession]
    In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motors trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. … I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father.
    Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand (who uses this word repeatedly in this book)
 
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Today's word is presented for the delicious quote.

orthodoxy – beliefs, ideas or activities considered traditional, normal and acceptable by most people

[contrast heterodoxy – the opposite; any opinions/doctrines at variance with the official or orthodox position
note also doxy1. a mistress 2. a sexually promiscuous woman]
    "I have heard frequent use," said the late Lord Sandwich, in a debate on the Test Laws, "of the words 'orthodoxy' and 'heterodoxy;' but I confess myself at a loss to know precisely what they mean." "Orthodoxy, my Lord," said Bishop Walburton, in a whisper, "orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is another man's doxy."
    – Priestley, Memoirs
 
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A protestant minister allegedly overheard his ten-year-old son, who, with a group of friends, was conducting a funeral for a dead bird. At the proper moment they sang this Mondegreen of the Doxology:

"Glory be to the Father
And to the Son
Into the hole he goes."
 
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Somewhere in the middle is unorthodox - differing from the norm, but not necessarily diametrically opposite.

"I have orthodox beliefs,
You have unorthodox beliefs,
He has heterodox beliefs."

If you picked up a book from your lap and found it was upside-down, the orthodox act would be turn it right-side up to read it. It would be unorthodox behaviour to throw the book up in the air and catch it when it had turned over. The heterodox thing to do might be to stand on your head to read the book.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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votary – a devoted [almost religiously so] follower, adherent, or advocate

I rarely take my quote from a translation, but I could not resist the precise gradations in the second quote.
    [Walt Whitman] was not the first major writer to create a deliberately eccentric image for purposes of self-promotion … but he set about it with an American thoroughness which was certainly new. … He reviewed his own poetry often, both anonymously and under pseudonym, wrote articles about himself and promoted biographies. He planted news stories. … He described his own body as 'perfect,' a theme taken up by his votaries, who compared him to Christ; actually he was an ungainly youth who became an ugly old man.
    – Paul M. Johnson, A History of the American People

    … Nily had a shining string or princely suitors, and around this string she had a second circle of dizzy, bewitched followers, and the a third circle of meek, humble votaries, and a fourth circle of distant admirers, and the fifth and sixth circles included me, a little weed that was occasionally touched unawares by a single extravagant ray, which could not imagine what its passing touch had done.
    – Amos Oz (Nicholas de Lange, translator), A Tale of Love and Darkness
 
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Because today is 7/7/07, there was an interesting report today on NPR about the importance of #7 throughout most religions.
 
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Jesuitical – (often lowercase) practicing casuistry or equivocation; using subtle or oversubtle reasoning; crafty; sly; intriguing
    . . ."Well, it may be good now, All I mean is that I don't happen to like it much.
    . . ."But is there a difference between liking a thing and thinking it good?
    . . ."Bridey, don't be so Jesuitical," said Sebastian, but I knew that this disagreement was not a matter of words only …
    – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
 
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In the Catholic church, incense is burned in a censer as a purification rite or offering. The censer is swung on a chain to disperse the smoke and aroma. In a delightful children's book, "Prayers from the Ark" by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, and originally in French, the horse's prayer reflects the swaying movement of the horses's head.
Ma pauvre tete encense
Tout la solitude de mon coer!

I think the tradition of burning incense around an altar dates back to the days of animal sacrifice when altars were pretty stinky places.
 
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"... Then methought the air grew denser,

Perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by seraphim ..."

~~~~ Poe
 
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Nice word, missann!

hassock - orignally, a compact tuft especially of grass or sedge (also known as a tussock)
then: a cushion for kneeling, esp. at church
and then: a padded cushion or low stool that serves as a seat or leg rest

[Hassock should not be confused with cassock. Smile ]
    she cooks and sews … darns, does the laundry, takeas splendid care of her husband, and looks after their five-room apartment, with its gemütlich mélange of plump hassocks and squashy chairs and cream-colored lace window curtains.
    – Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
 
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Just down the road from where I live there's a town called Hassocks. Wikipedia claims that the name originally came from the tufts of grass to be found there - although I have no other reference to support that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassocks


Richard English
 
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Strange juxtaposition "gemütlich mélange," takes two languages to paint the scene.

(Also recalls our Greek/Latin blends: astronaut, carbohydrate, television...


RJA
 
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ahimsa – a Buddhist and Hindu doctrine expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and urging the avoidance of harm and violence
    The leaders started their speeches … "We have been slaves in our own country for too long. And the time has come to fight for liberty. In this fight, we do not need guns or swords. We have been so not need harsh words or hatred. With truth and ahimsa we will convince the British that the moment is right for them to depart."
    – Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
 
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