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
Acroama, Obol..., Angor, Venust
1. Let's begin this essay with a word on venust, which slipped in after I had finished the previous essay. Cicero writes, in his speech in defense of the poet Archias,
"Qui cum esset senex mortuus, tamen propter excellentem artem ac venustatem videbatur omnino mori non debuisse."
The last part can be rendered, "nevertheless on account of his excellent skill and charm it appeared that he ought not to have died at all." Venustatem is translated as "charm." The Latin behind it is venustas, which means "charm" or "loveliness." But this word goes back to venus/Venus, which means the same thing as well as "love" or "a loved one." Something relating to Venus or love is Venereus, as in "venereal disease." But I am interested in the word venustas. We have the word venust in English, which means "handsome, beautiful; elegant, graceful.." We even have venustity or venustness, the adjectives. "As the infancy of Rome was venust, so was its manhood nobly strenuous." We might even find the word venustation, a "making handsome or beautiful" useful. "Pre-prom venustation is a sine qua non for girls and boys alike." I believe that we can't have enough words built on the concepts of love, beauty, handsomeness, etc.
2. Oops, on my way to acroama, my mind fell upon a Latinate phrase in the OED, and I had to turn aside to look at it--it is vera copula--a "true copulation" or "true intercourse." I have to confess that I have heard of true crime or a true believer in my day, but never had I bothered to learn about "true intercourse." Yet, our legal tradition has taken an interest in what constitutes "true intercourse." Indeed, law is superfond of "tests," and the "test" of "true intercourse" was laid down, so to speak, by a guy with the surreal name of Dr. Lushington in 1845. This "test" was used to determine if a marriage had, indeed, been consummated. If not, then there need not be an annulment if the parties wanted to split. Here is the language from the 1845 court decision about true intercourse. Dr Lushington is testifying:
"Sexual intercourse, in the proper meaning of the term, is ordinary and complete intercourse; it does not mean partial and imperfect intercourse: yet I cannot go the length of saying that every degree of imperfection would deprive it of its essential character...[Isn't this wonderful??]...If there be a reasonable probability that the lady can be made capable of a vera copula--of the natural sort of coitus, though without the power of conception, I cannot pronounce this marriage void."
Then, 100 years alter, the Times Law Reporter wrote: "It is well established that there must be what Dr. Lushington referred to as vera copula." So, that, ultimately was the test of whether a marriage had been consummated--whether there could be a true act of natural coitus; a vera copula; a "true coupling." If, "on the contrary, she is not and cannot be made capable of more than an incipient, imperfect and unnatural coitus, I would pronounce the marriage void." Hm. What about the guy? Well, maybe the same applies to him. Thus, if there isn't anything more than an "incipient, imperfect and unnatural coitus," you don't really have a marriage. Why? Because if you don't have a vera coitus, the "true interests of soicety would [not] be advanced...by retaining within the marriage bonds parties driven to such disgusting practices." He doesn't give examples of what "disgusting" practices that such people are "driven" to, but you can be sure, it must have been pretty disgusting--oh, by standards of 1845.
But, interestingly enough, the issue of vera copula, which we would only have thought was a kind of sidebar issue for the prurient legal historian, has come back in our day. Those interested in "transgender law," a growing field that will certainly make more of a splash in the future, have returned to Dr. Lushington's definition in an attempt to define imperfect vaginas, completed sex acts and various other things associated with transgender sexual expression--not something that has occupied much of my time. Yet, we get a word, a phrase, a reality from this issue. Now, you can add to your "true crime" and "true religion" and "true believer"--"vera copula" or "true copulation."
3. Acroama is used by Cicero in a sentence about the Athenian general Themistocles. There was a tradition that attributed to him a statement that he would hear the acroama or vocem of a certain person freely if he said certain things... Well, the vocem is the "voice," but what is the acroama? My edited text translates it as the "entertainment." But the word appears both simpler and more difficult than that. It is, to be sure, entertainment by a singer, reader, actor or reciter, but its root goes back to the Greek word akroama, which has something to do with "hearing." The Greek verb akroasthai means "to hear." The word acroama came into English in the 16th century to describe "oral teaching heard only by initiated disciplies; hence esoteric doctrines, as distinguished from the exoteric." From North's translation of one of Plutarch's Lives: "Alexander did...learn of Aristotle..other more secret, hard, and grave Doctrine, which Aristotles Scholars do properly call Acroamata." Later, in the 19th century, the term acroama could mean "a rhetorical declamation" (as opposed to an argument). An acroasis is an oral discourse, not necessarily suggesting an esoteric teaching. From the 17th century: "Six hundred Persons..came to his nocturnal Acroasis, perhaps meaning the Lectures through a Skreen during their Probation." Elizabeth Browning likened acroases to "auscultations"--another rich word.
So, even though the Latin word suggests an oral performance of some kind, which may rightly be translated "entertainment," the way the word was specially taken over into English tends to make the translation difficult, especially for people who are philosophically trained and know of the meaning that relates to hearers of esoteric doctrine.
I thought I would certainly be through by now, but I find that I need to talk about three other terms: obol..., angor, and vallum. It never seems to end, even though it bears great fruit.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long