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]
– 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
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."
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]
– Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand (who uses this word repeatedly in this book)
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 doxy –1. a mistress 2. a sexually promiscuous woman]
– Priestley, Memoirs
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."
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.
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.
– 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
Because today is 7/7/07, there was an interesting report today on NPR about the importance of #7 throughout most religions.
Jesuitical – (often lowercase) practicing casuistry or equivocation; using subtle or oversubtle reasoning; crafty; sly; intriguing
. . ."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
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.
"... Then methought the air grew denser,
Perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim ..."
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. ]
– Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
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
Strange juxtaposition "gemütlich mélange," takes two languages to paint the scene.
(Also recalls our Greek/Latin blends: astronaut, carbohydrate, television...
ahimsa – a Buddhist and Hindu doctrine expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and urging the avoidance of harm and violence
– Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance