Saturday, November 05, 2005



There is an almost physical pleasure in learning a new word. I've experienced this pleasure several times during the past few days. Gypsy Scholar introduced me to futhark, futhorc, and wapentake, and to The Joy of Curmudgeonry I am indebted for wanhope.

Here is the entry in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) for wanhope:
n. [AS. wan, won, deficient, wanting + hopa hope: cf. D. wanhoop. See Wane, and Hope.] Want of hope; despair; also, faint or delusive hope; delusion. [Obs.] Piers Plowman. "Wanhope and distress." Chaucer.
Wanhope is a word worth resuscitating, I think.

Lately I've been trying to read Nicolás Gómez Dávila's Escolios a un Texto Implicito, with a dictionary at my right hand and a grammar at my left. Often I wish I had the luxury of an English translation, but it's good exercise for my feeble brain to struggle with the Spanish. One of his aphorisms is:
La literatura contemporánea parece una algarabía de eunucos en celo.
"Contemporary literature is like a gabbling of eunuchs in heat." The primary meaning of algarabía is the Arabic language. But according to my dictionary, it also means "gibberish, din of voices, uproar." A word redolent of Spanish history. Algarabía is one word I won't soon forget.

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