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October 2006 Archives

Hiding and Secrecy: camarilla, doggo, in camera, latitation (sub rosa), priest's hole, star chamber

Words of War and Revolt: palace revolution, dragoon (importunate), casus belli, sortie, jihad, polemology, antebellum

More Words of War: banzai attack; banzai charge, brevet, Maginot line, Kulturkampf, Kriegspiel, cantonment, saber rattling

Toponyms: zabernism, Trojan horse, troy, Sodom, jodhpurs, panama hat, baldachin


Hiding and Secrecy


This week we will present furtive words: words of hiding and secrecy.

camarilla – a group of confidential, often scheming advisers; a cabal


… 'a camarilla of all-powerful Ustashi officers and scheming politicians', who had taken control of what remained of the disintegrating state of Croatia, …
— Stephen Dorril, MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service

… tell a camarilla of anti-Diem generals that, if they overthrew Diem, the United States would recognize their new regime.
— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Robert Kennedy and His Times


doggo – 'lie doggo' Brit. informal, dated: remain motionless and quiet to escape detection


I thought, my God, he is trying to hypnotize me; and then, I must play by the rules, but I'll lie doggo and pretend I am hypnotized.
— John Fowles, The Magus


in camera – 1. in secret; privately 2. law: in private with a judge rather than in open court


Queensland Health employees had only been willing to give their evidence in camera for fear of retribution.
Sunshine Coast Daily (Australia), Sept. 30, 2006


Here's a rare one.

latitation –lying in concealment; hiding; lurking
latibulum – a concealed hiding place; a burrow; a lair; a hole


The warden took a key ring from his pocket. … "We have the Major in the latibulum. It's where we keep the most gruesome cases, out of public viewing …"
— Peter Quinn, Banished Children of Eve


sub rosa – happening or done in secret


I run my boat into New York, buy from Yankee firms, sub rosa, of course, and away I go.
— Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Foreign countries in the region who were supplying sub-rosa assistance to the U.S. were about to make decisions that would put them at even greater risk …
— Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack


priest's hole – a secret chamber or hiding-place for a (Roman Catholic) priest (in times of the penal laws)


Miss Marple didn't see how architecture could come into it, though it might, she supposed. A priest's hole, perhaps? One of the houses they were going to visit might have a priest's hole which would contain a skeleton.
— Agatha Christie, Nemesis

The priest's hole and the concealed staircase are at your service.
— Dorothy L. Sayers, Murder Must Advertise


star chamber – characterized by secrecy and often being irresponsibly arbitrary and oppressive


The Motion Picture Association of America's film rating system … is a joke. It will slap a restrictive rating on the mere flash of a woman's breast and not even blink at the most gruesome violence imaginable. It's much easier on large-budget studio productions than low-budget independent films. And it operates as a star chamber, dispensing its judgments in total secrecy.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sept. 22, 2006



Words of War and Revolt


Human conflict … what an endless subject!

palace revolution – overthrow of a ruler by those who are already in the ruling group


In Prussia and especially in Russia, where palace revolutions were not uncommon, the sovereign dreaded the aristocracy …
– Georges Lefebvre and Elizabeth M. Evanson, The French Revolution

When he [Karl Menninger] had turned 71 and still was not ready to relinquish command, impatient subordinates staged a palace revolution and kicked him upstairs to be chairman of the board.
– Time Magazine, Aug. 6, 1973

A palace revolution in athletics was triggered yesterday with a demand for the resignation of the world governing body's president. Luciano Barra, one of the sport's most respected officials, sent a seven-page letter to … the International Association of Athletics Federations' president, and copied it to council members.
– The Herald (
UK), Sept. 19, 2006


dragoon – 1. to subjugate or persecute by imposition of troops 2. to compel by violent measures or threats; coerce
[from Fr. dragon carbine, musket, because the guns "breathed fire" like a dragon]


Michelangelo, dragooned against his will by the importunate Pope, painted the Sistine ceiling …, worked alone on a scaffold for four years, allowing no one but the Pope to inspect his progress.
– Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From
Troy to Vietnam


Bonus word:
– persistent or pressing in entreaty (with the overtone of being annoyingly so)


casus belli – an act or situation provoking or justifying war


There is good reason for the preoccupation with finding an Iraqi connection [with Al Qaeda]. As the administration edges closer and closer to military engagement, it badly needs a casus belli (roughly translated, smoking gun) as a justification for an act of war.
– Christian Science Monitor,
Aug. 9, 2002


sortie – an attack by troops breaking out of a defensive position; also, a flight by a military aircraft

But the meaning has expanded to a non-military sense, not thoroughly noted in the dictionaries.

sortie – an incursion into new territory


Citrφen is considering a sortie into Canada, a move that would position its cars closer to the US border than at any time since grey-market importation ended in the 1990s.
– Jalopnik,
Oct. 6, 2006


jihad – 1. a holy war waged on behalf of Islam 2. a crusade for a principle or belief

The second, figurative use is rare, but more interesting. I would say it typically has the sense of a vendetta.


If there are real crooks in Canada's financial markets, the country's top regulators have demonstrated an uncanny ability to not find them. Instead, the record is littered with … over-the-top prosecutions of people who have done little or no wrong. We're thinking here of the Ontario Securities Commission's jihad against David Rankin, Scott Paterson and mutual fund operators …
– National Post (
Canada), Oct. 26, 2006


polemology – the study of war, esp. as an academic discipline

So says OED, but notice the second quote. I suppose it all depends on your point of view.


To speak about the nature and causes of violence … must appear presumptuous at a moment when … eminent natural scientists – biologists, physiologists, ethologists [sic], and zoologists – have joined in an all out effort to solve the riddle of "aggressiveness" in human behavior, and even a brand-new science, called "polemology," has emerged.
– Hannah Arendt, On Violence (1970)

Francis A. Beer advocates the adoption of a more scientific perspective in "polemology" or "peace science."
– Jongsuk Chay, Culture and International Relations


antebellum – of the period preceding a particular war
(but almost always used with reference to the U.S. Civil War; that is, pre-1861)


There are unwritten rules of etiquette for a Vice President's wife that correspond roughly to the antebellum definition of a lady: her name should appear in the papers only on the occasion of her marriage or death.
– Time Magazine,
Jan. 23, 1989



More Words of War


We'll continue with a second weekly theme of words of war and battle.

banzai attack; banzai charge – an all-out usually desperate attack
[after such attacks by WWII Japanese troops]

Here are examples both literal and figurative.


we turned back a banzai attack … they came out of their holes with their swords drawn, high-hollering 'Banzai!' The Japanese cut the guy ropes and they were running them through the canvas with their swords. When they came through our area, we were still sleeping in the dirt. We cut them down.
– The Guardian,
Oct. 21, 2006

… the man who fishes for black marlin probably wears a size 44 coat and a size 4 hat. … it takes brawn to catch one—and a kind of lunacy to try. … As a last resort, if the marlin is angry enough, he will even launch a banzai attack; virtually every boat in the Club de Pesca's fleet carries chunks of marlin bill embedded in its hull.
– Time Magazine, July 10, 1964

An influential Republican congressman California wants to add a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border … build twin metal fences along the entire 2,000-mile border to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Cost estimates start at $4 billion. The wall would stop the "banzai attack," Hunter said …, when large numbers of people cross at the same time.
East Valley (Arizona) Tribune, Nov. 4, 2005


brevet – a temporary promotion without pay increase

The dictionaries define this as such a military promotion, but the term is much more interesting in its occasional non-military uses. For example:


In his own absence from Washington, [Lyndon] Johnson has increasingly relied on the Defense Secretary to act as unofficial brevet deputy President.
– Time Magazine,
Nov. 19, 1965

A season that began with considerable promise is rapidly spiraling down the drain at
Arizona. … Tight ends assistant Dana Dimel, once the head coach at Wyoming and Houston, has been made a brevet co-offensive coordinator in an attempt to rev things up. At this point that might be akin to putting lipstick on a pig, however.
Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette-Times, Oct. 10, 2006


Maginot line – a expensive defense that seems impregnable, creates a false sense of security, but proves utterly ineffective (typically because it is static and thus cannot respond to other means of attack)

[Wordcrafter's definition. From a line of pre-WWII French fortifications named for minister Andrι Maginot (1877-1932). The line was strong – but the Germans simply went around it.]


The European trade commissioner … mounted a withering attack on protectionist forces inside the EU yesterday saying a "Maginot line" mentality should not be allowed to distract the union from the reforms needed to compete with the rising powers of China and India.
– The Guardian,
Sept. 7, 2005

If a terrorist tried to sneak a "dirty" bomb into the
United States, … [r]adiation detectors rushed into service since 9/11 might sound the alarm. … Some critics, though, say … all the sensors in the world might not be enough. … This could become a Maginot line for us, creating a false sense of security," says Randall Larsen … . "Anyone smart enough to get this stuff could sneak it past detectors."
– Christian Science Monitor,
Nov. 9, 2005


Kulturkampf – conflict between cultures, or between secular and religious authorities


… the kulturkampf between Islam and the rest of the modern world.
– The Guardian,
Sept. 20, 2001

… the Kulturkampf, or cultural struggle, between
Iran and Turkey for the allegiance of the Muslim-dominated former Soviet republics.
– International Herald Tribune,
Jan. 29, 1992


Another war-word from German:


Kriegspiel – 'war game', played by moving on a board pieces, flags, etc., representing armed forces


Indeed, had [the siege of] Dien Bien Phu been played as a Kriegspiel on a set of computers, no doubt the computers would have confirmed … that the loss of the garrison … was strategically acceptable.
– Bernard B. Fall, Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of
Dien Bien Phu


cantonment – temporary living quarters specially built for soldiers
[Most press usages are from the press of
India and nearby areas.]


… terrorist leaders were expected to gather at a camp near Khowst, Afghanistan, to plan future attacks. … The CIA described the area as effectively a military cantonment, away from civilian population centers and overwhelmingly populated by jihadists.
– The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States


saber rattling – a show or threat of military power, esp. as used by a nation to impose its policies on other countries
[often used with the implication that the threat is mere bluff and bluster]


The Soviets exploded the biggest nuclear weapon ever tested, a 50 megaton hydrogen bomb, over an Arctic peninsula in 1961. Most historians’ view is that the impractically large “Tsar Bomba” was pure Cold War saber-rattling, never intended for use in warfare
- Forbes,
Oct. 27, 2006





This week we'll present toponyms: words from place names. We start with one that would also fit last week's 'military' theme.

zabernism – the misuse of military power or authority; bullying, aggression

From the town of
Zabern (French Saverne) in Alsace, where ugly incidents of Prussian militarism occurred in late 1913.


the army … is busy in Cologne imprisoning every German who does not salute a British officer; whilst the government at home, asked whether it approves, replies that it does not propose even to discontinue this Zabernism when the Peace is concluded, but in effect looks forward to making Germans salute British officers until the end of the world.
– George Bernard Shaw, Heartbreak House


You would not expect these two toponyms, Trojan horse and troy ounce, refer to two different cities.

Trojan horse – someone or something intended to defeat or subvert from within usually by deceptive means [also used in computerese]
[from the conquest of the city of
Troy, as told in the Iliad]


Proposition 90, touted by its backers as a protection against unreasonable government taking of private property … goes far beyond sensible … by making it extremely difficult for government to protect the environment or preserve our quality of life. … Proposition 90 is a Trojan horse …
Los Angeles Times, Nov. 5, 2006


troy – a system of weights, used mainly for precious metals and gems, with a pound of 12 ounce
[such a system was used at the fair of
Troyes, France]


Gold closed in London at $625.20 per troy ounce, up from $623.20 on Wednesday.
– Forbes,
Nov. 9, 2006


Sodom – an place noted for extreme vice and corruption
[from Sodom and Gomorrah, the two wicked cities of the plain in Gen. xviii-xix. The same place is the source of the familiar word sodomy.]


All of this controverts the notion that blue-state California is some Sodom on the Pacific.
– Los Angeles Times,
Oct. 22, 2006


Many toponyms are names of cloth or clothing. We have previously mentioned several examples: taffeta, tuxedo, denim and jeans. Here are two more.

jodhpurs – (plural noun; picture here) trousers for horse riding, close-fitting below the knee and with reinforced patches inside the leg.
[after the Indian city (state?) of Jodhpur]


Stimson and General Patton were present, the tall, theatrical Patton resplendent in buckled riding boots, jodhpurs, and a lacquered four-star helmet.
– David McCullough, Truman

I used a western saddle and rode in blue jeans and cowboy boots, but the president [Reagan] preferred an English saddle, jodhpurs, and polished riding boots.
James Baker III, Work Hard, Study...and Keep Out of Politics!


panama hat – (picture here) a man’s wide-brimmed hat of straw-like material
[after the country of Panama. This is a misnomer, for it was originally made in Ecuador, but it was distributed north from Panama City.]

Sing it!


He wears:
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces
A polka-dot vest, and man, oh man! He wears
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces,
And a big panama with a purple hat band!
– Dodie Stevens, 1959


With Iraq in the news, let's take a toponym from that country.

baldachin – a ceremonial canopy over an altar, throne, or doorway.
[originally denoting a rich brocade from Baghdad: from Italian Baldacco ‘Baghdad’.]


Beyond it was the glittering gold and white altar at which only a pope may say mass, and above the altar Bernini's vast baldachin, 100ft high, its helical columns spiralling up towards Michelangelo's giant cupola and the presumed location of heaven beyond.
– The Guardian, Apr. 5, 2005, at the funeral of Pope John Paul II