Palin and Lalia
Theological Terms I
Theological Terms II
Theol. Terms III
Noso and Noce/Nocu
Milton, Book I (PL)
Oo and Ovi
Labors of Hercules I
Oblectation et al.
Dissimulare et al.
Acroama et al.
Tetrous et al.
Commeate et al.
Obsolete et al.
Subtle et al. I
Hesitate et al. (Ovid)
Excoriate et al. I
Excoriate et al. II
Bill Long 1/2/09
Preconize, Acroama, Angor, Dissimulare, More on 'Obol'
1. Patient study of select Latin words in their Ciceronian garb can not only help us remember those words for future reading but can enrich our understanding of English. Let's begin with the English word dissimulate. I think I learned it for the first time in Junior High--to mean "to dissemble." Ah, I had to learn what that meant--and a line from the Edgar Allen Poe short story The Tell-Tale Heart got me started:
"I shrieked, 'dissemble no more! I admit the deed!--tear up the planks! here, here!--It is the beating of his hideous heart!'"
So now I had two pleasant problems on my hand--to figure out both what dissimulate as well as dissemble meant. To dissimulate means to feign or fake or make pretense of. But if we go deeper into the Latin meaning of the term, we see it as two words--dis and simulare. Simulo is a frequently-appearing word in Latin and means "to make like cause to resemble." It can also mean "to make a copy of" or "represent." We have the word "similar" in English to capture the concept. Thus, dissimulare means, in the first instance, "to make unlike." Well, what does it really mean to "make unlike?" It means to alter the appearance of something from its "normal" appearance. Why would you do that? Perhaps to conceal or deceive or simply to disguise. Thus, dissimulare grew to mean "to disguise" or "to conceal" or "to hide." The verb came into English as dissimule and then, a few centuries later, dissimulate. The first definition of dissimule tracks the Latin perfectly: "to alter the semblance of (one's feelings, actions, etc.) so as to conceal or deceive; to disguise under a feigned semblance."
I need a moment to look at that word semblance, since that entered into our definition at two places. It goes immediately back to the French, where semble means "similar" or "like." We also have the obsolete term in English semble, meaning "like" or "similar." From 1584: "A tyrant vile,/ Of name and deed that bare the semble style,/ That did this king." Ah, Auden tried to bring back the word in a 1966 work About House: "Six lenient semble sieges/ None of them perilous/ Is now a Perfect Social Number." Lots of stuff in those lines that I can't get into now.... If we go deeper behind the French we find our trust Latin term similis. So, "altering the semblance of" means to take away the similarity of something to something else. That is what it means to dissimulate or, for that matter, to dissemble.
2. Oops, another word which isn't in the "list." In praising Archias, Cicero says,
"Ceteri non modo post civitatem datam sed etiam post legem Papiam aliquo modo in eorum municipiorum tabulas irrepserunt.."
I am interested in the "irrepserunt," and a translation is, "Others not only after the date of citizenship but also after the law of Papias (was passed) in some manner crept into the records of their cities." So, the notion of "creeping in" through the word irrepere, to "creep in or on" intrigued. And, indeed, we have the words irreption and irreptitious in English. An irreption is a "creeping or stealing in, stealthy entrance." Actually I like the word because it is another word suggesting stealthiness or surreptitiousness or furtiveness and, with all the "creeping around" that people do in our society, we at least ought to have another term to describe their actions. The Episcopal Priest Jeremy Taylor used the term in 1649: "By continuall watchfulnesse, we shall lessen the inclination, and account fewer sudden irreptions." The term was first used in English in 1598 in an "Order for Prayer" in a Liturgical Service for Queen Elizabeth: "The irreption of those undermining vermin the Priests and Jesuits covertly sent in." Can't you imagine giving some kind of prayer with the word irreption in it? "Oh God, we pray you forestall the irreptions of X and Y, who have often secretly tried to enter to foil the liberty we enjoy in Christ..."
3. Let's close this essay with preconize. Actually, the Latin words Cicero used is praeconium, which is ultimately derived from praeco. A praeco is a herald or crier; thus praeconius is a "heralding" or "announcing" or "something belonging to a praeco or crier." Thus, by extension, praeconius can refer to the thing that is "cried"--it is a public commendation or the act of making something known. I am now interested in how this word came into English. First, the "e" was dropped, so that the word came into our language in the 15th century as preconize--to "proclaim or announce publicly." It can also mean "to sing the praises of, to commend or extol publicly." From 1847: "They had all preaconised their accomplishments to us." Here is a particularly stilted use of the term from Africa News in 2004, "The Angolan Minister of Family and Women Promotion...expressed today her optimism on the reach of the objectives and purposes preconized at the solemn declarartion on the gender equality." But the noun preconization still has a meaning in the Roman Catholic Church, to designate the public confirmation of an appointment (as that of a bishop) by the Pope. From 1981: "The tragic martyrdom of Archibishop Romero has now rightly drawn attention to the vigorous work of the Salvadorean Church on behalf of reform since his preconization to the See of San Salvador in 1977."
As is often the case, I think I need one more essay to "finish" some of these Ciceronian terms.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long