Many More "Ins"
Bill Long 10/20/04
Invigilate, Inviperate and Invaginate
The two meanings of "in" as "enter into" and "non" are carried on in the words for today. We will begin with a confusion, to which all but the most vigilant may fall prey.
Everyone knows that to be vigilant means to be watchful or awake. To keep a vigil means to stay awake at night watching for something. The different between the wise and foolish virgins of Jesus' parable was that the former were vigilant. Thus, you would think that all the above words would mean "not vigilant," with the negative "in" preceding the root. But, in fact, two of these words mean "not vigilant" and two of them mean "vigilant." 'Oops,' you say, 'Bill, there are only three words there. You made a simple computational error.' Nope. That is because one of the three words above also means its opposite. Which do you think it is?
To remove the mystery, a person who is invigilant can be either unwatchful or watchful. But how can that be? Precisely by applying both meanings of "in" to the root. The verb invigilate means to "keep watch; to watch carefully" or, in a transitive usage, "to arouse." "He invigilated over the city constantly during the threatened attack." God is defined as the power "that invigilates over all things." It has a special connotation as one who "watches over" students--a proctor. "He was a caricature of the invigilating examiner." Because this word is rarely used, it is not clear whether and which prepositions it takes. Does one "invigilate" something or "invigilate over" something or even, as one quotation has it, invigilate to" something ("Princes ought to invigilate to the maintenance and conservation of religion")? I take the confusion as actually an encouraging sign, urging me to use the word with the preposition of my choice. I prefer "invigilate over."
But now let's look at the term as meaning "not vigilant." Invigilance is taken from the Latin invigilantia which means the absence of watchfulness. Thus, of the six entries in the OED beginning with "invigil," three take the "in" as a negativizer ("invigilance, invigilancy, invigilant) while three take it as an intensifier of place (invigilant, invigilate, invigilation). If I preached that the shepherds who kept watch over their sheep by night were invigilant, a close-listening parishioner would have no idea whether or not they were doing a good job. You would first have to know if the shepehreds were manifesting invigilancy or were invigilate. But enough of this for now; you get the point.
I couldn't resist this word. It is not well-attested but has the meaning of "making like a viper" or "filling with a viper's nature." Rather than having a scientific connotation, the only attestations have a very human meaning..."infuriate and inviperate the nation against peaceable Dissenters." I think that most peole feel that the 2004 American Presidential election has inviperated not simply the candidates but especially some of their more rabid followers. "The political pundits believe that the candidate who most inviperates his loyalists will win." I see inviperate as a synonym of envenom, though it has even a more colorful and pictorial connotation.
A vagina in Latin is a sheathe, a place where a sword is to be deposited. Very graphic. But all the OED attestations of invaginate relate to the scientific realities: "to turn or double (a tubular sheath) back within itself; to introvert." But really the most clearly understood meaning of the term is from male and female sex organs. From the Yearbook of Neurology, et al.: "external...sex organs of the male, contrasted to the invaginated organs of the female." This use of the term allows a more creative play with invaginate, and we can use it to capture any insertion or hiding of something valuable or dangerous. "His hasty invagination of the proposal in the folder meant that he didn't want us to see it." Something is invaginated if it is a powerful and dangerous thing (like a sword) and then is put in a holder appropriate for it (like a sheath). When we start to play with the term, perhaps it can also be used in the language of sex-play.
But maybe, you say, you would like to reduce the sexual connotations in American English. Ever since the 1970s, it seems, we have become such a sexually-focused culture that whole professions have grown up based on sex (from the multi-billion pornography industry to the multi-million sexual harrassment area of law). Instead of worrying about invaginating things, you think we should be in the business of invirtuating people. The OED defines invirtue as "to endow with virtue" and invirtuate means "to make virtuous or endow with virtue." The entire theory of Civil Republicanism, basically the natural law theory combined with a civic activism of the Founding Fathers, is based on the theory that good conduct in the leaders stirs and invirtuates the classes below them. That is, moral uprightness in the leaders not simply sets an example for those below but, as it were, imparts virtue to them.*
[*Of course, there is always in theology a earlier debate of nearly every principle of law and political philosophy. The theological issue here is whether the power of Christ toward beleivers rests in the example of his behavior or the power communicated to his followers through his Spirit].
I believe that a lot of the skepticism regarding political leaders in America in 2004 rests on the sense that leaders no longer, if they ever did, invirtuate the populace. Maybe if we spent more time thinking about invirtuation than invagination, we would be far better off.
Then, again, I don't think we can really control the thoughts about sheathing and unsheathing powerful things. And, furthermore, talk of invirtuating presupposes that there is such a thing as virtue today. One of the casualties of the increasingly (and invisibly) creeping nature of deterministic thought in our culture, is that less and less of what we do is actually seen as a choice. But if less and less is a choice, we have little room for virtue. But that is certainly too complex for me to take on now.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long