Finishing the "Ims"--Really
Bill Long 7/23/05
Had I not been so preoccupied with imbrute in my last column, I would have "finished" the ims. But I took a frolic of my own, as we say in law, on pleasure and its relationship to imbruting, and I awoke to realize that I had written an entire page. So, the other "ims," which had been clamoring at least for some attention, were ignored. I now give them their 15 seconds of fame.
Let's begin with a word that is no word, but which was triggered in my mind by imbrute. Why don't we have the word imbruit? I remember learning the word bruit in high school. I learned it as a verb meaning "to spread about" or "disseminate." Quotations from Carlyle and Dickens neatly illustrate its use. From C: "The country is getting up; noise of you is bruited day after day." And, from D: "This report..was bruited about with much industry." But it was not until sometime later that I realized that bruit could be a noun which referred to the report that was noised about. The Bible, which I memorized largely in college in seminary, has, in the KJV of Nahum 3:19 (the OED has 3:18), "All that hear the bruit of thee, shall clap the hands over thee."
So, if a bruit is a report and to bruit means to spread (a report) around, why can't imbruit suggest something like the "entering" of a report or rumor into our consciouness? We all live in a daze, to a greater or lesser extent, and we are oblivious to messages that at a later time may seem crystal clear and obvious to us. What was it that imbruited the story to us? Instead of having to ask a person, "When was it that it first entered into your mind that this thing was important?" we might simply ask, "when did this first imbruit you?" What do you think?
Fifteen Seconds of Fame
Let's begin with immerge. Immerge may mean "immerse," but is sort of a cross between immerse and submerge. It is not the sole possession of either the scientists or theologians: "The deeper you immerge the Tube, the higher still will the Quicksilver in the Tube rise." Or, "they pour not water upon the Heads of Infants, but immerge them in the Font." I like the figurative use of the term. "Nor let thy wit immerge thy reason too."
But then we have the terms immersable and immersible. Immersable comes from the Latin immersabilis, "that cannot be sunk," and means, "incapable of being drowned." But, when I consulted the Century, I got this definition of immersable: "capable of being immersed." The OED has the latter definition for immersible, though it also has an attestation for immersible as "incapable of being drowned." This is another example of the inflammable/inflammable distinction. Something inflammable is either able to catch fire or not able to catch fire. I guess you just have to light the match to see. So, would the equivalent for immersable/immersible be that you just have to hold it under the water? But surely that is not a very humane way of living. If I were not so immersed in the ims, I would suggest we drop both words. Well, I guess context will have to control, but the two meanings of "in" as a prefix are coming back to haunt us.
So, let's get to something less controversial. I wanted to mention imbonity and imbenignity before leaving the ims. Imbonity occurs in the Century, and means "want of goodness or of good qualities." From Burton's great 17th century monstrosity, the Anatomy of Melancholy (now recently edited in 6 volumes): "All fears, griefs, suspicions, discontents, imbonities, insuavities are swallowed up." Burton's book, in its sixth edition (1651, several years after his death), had a total of 516,116 words (I am not making this up). After thinking about the quotation I just gave you, I wonder if the edition could have been reduced by a few hundred thousand words....But, then, again, Burton may be quoting Tertullian, the third century Latin Christian father, when he talks about "omnis duritia et imbonitas et insuavitas" (thanks to the OED). Well, we don't want to give imbonity more than 15 seconds.
And, imbenignity, in a word, means "unkindness." Again, we have to return to the 17th century for a quotation: "By reason of their Imbenignity, Inexorableness, and Inclemency." Can't you just see the ways that "im" and "in" enrich our lives? My goodness, in the space of a paragraph or two we have imbonity, insuavity, imbenignity, inexorableness and inclemency. And, I haven't even inquired about the weather.
We are at the end of the line. So, I will mention imbordure, meaning to "encompass with a border," but in heraldry it means "to furnish with a border of the same tincture." Then, there is is imborsation, an Italian mode of election in which names of candidates are placed in a purse (borsa). This brings to mind the Greek-derived word for those who study election returns--psephologist. The word psephos means "pebble." Thus, we have in English words relating to elections that stress what is put into a bag (the pebble) or the receptacle into which the pebble is placed (the borsa). And, we only thought the rocks were in the politicians' heads. I could go on at length, but let's bid farewell with immodish, which means "not according to the mode; unfashionable." Now where do you stand on the burning question of the day: "Was it immodish for the girls to have come to the White House in their flip flops?" Or was it undignified? Or was it just fine, and we should just let the flip flop flap flounder?