Saturday, May 23, 2009

In A Manner of Speaking

The English Renaissance, like the earlier Italian Renaissance, turned to Latin and Greek works for inspiration and to those languages for vocabulary expansion.

Among other things, elegant public oratory became a goal, and terms were needed to distinguish shades and styles of presentation. Shoddy oratory was roundly derided, and early English dictionaries, which were often little more than Latin-to-English compilations, were filled with rhetorical terms.

• Using high-sounding or pompous language was termed altiloquent, grandiloquent, and magniloquent. When the words outweighed the thought, the speaker was largiloquent and multiloquent.

• To be ambiloquent or flexiloquent was to use ambiguous and doubtful expressions. It was much preferable to be breviloquent, pauciloquent, or planiloquent — to use plain and measured language.

• To speak in a sweet and pleasing manner (perhaps even using flattery) was to be blandiloquent, dulciloquent, melliloquent, or suaviloquent.

• Those who spoke with a forked tongue were fallaciloquent, mendaciloquent, and versutiloquent.

• To speak learnedly was dociloquent; to speak foolishly was stultiloquent.

• To be profaniloquent was to speak of profane, worldly issues; to be sanctiloquent was to speak of holy and worthy things.

• The speaker who made himself the center of the universe was superbiloquent and vaniloquent. If what he said was also devoid of substance, he was inaniloquent.

• The blesiloquent spoke with a stammer, the dentiloquent spoke through clenched teeth, and the tardiloquent spoke so slowly that the audience invariably fell asleep.

• The fatiloquent spoke prophetically, the gaudiloquent promoted joyfulness, and the somniloquent had to fall back on the “I’m not responsible for what I say when I dream” plea — the spousal last line of defense.

SIDEBAR: Thomas Blount, Glossographia

SIDEBAR: Nathan Bailey, An universal etymological English dictionary

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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