Category Archives: language

Fidimplicitary: A Word for These Times

One of my weekly pleasures is Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words Newsletter, available for (free) subscription via, but footnoted with this chastening injunction:

This formatted version of the newsletter is intended for the private use of subscribers. Please do not reproduce it in this format in whole or part on any Web site or post a link to this page without the prior permission of the author.

OK, fair enough, that’s how MQ wants it, and I encourage you to subscribe, for sure. Each week brings several gems of Wordstuff, just the thing for those of us who fancy a bit of orotundity now and again. This week’s toothsome Weird Word is Fidimplicitary, which Quinion glosses as “Putting one’s faith in someone else’s views”, a phenomenon not unknown in campaign season… He goes on to trace the word to a coinage of Sir Thomas Urquhart (1652), reprinted (thanks to Google Print) in The Works of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, Knight (“92 copies printed, some on large paper”, this one from Oxford’s library), in a section headlined as “Logopandecteision” (page image). Here’s some of the text, with especially juicy bits bolded:

60. If any officious critick will run to the omnipotency of God for framing more worlds, according to the common saying, Nothing is impossible to God, that implies not a contradiction, so must he have recourse to the same omnipotent power for furnishing of man with other speech-tools then his tongue, throat, roof of the mouth, lips, and teeth, before the contexture of another universal language can be warped.

61. That I should hit upon the invention of that, for the furtherance of philosophy, and other disciplines and arts, which never hitherto hath been so much as thought upon by any, and that in a matter of so great extent, as the expressing of all the things in the world, both in themselves, actions, ways of doing, situation, pendicles, relations, connexions, pathetick interpositions, and all other appurtenances to a perfect elocution, without being beholding to any language in the world ; insomuch as one word will hardly be believed by our fidimplicitary gown-men, who, satisfied with their predecessors’ contrivances, and taking all things litterally, without examination, blaterate, to the nauseating even of vulgar ears, those exotick proverbs, There is no new thing under the sun, Nihil dictum quod non dictum prius, and, Beware of philosophers; authorizating this on Paul, the first on Solomon, and the other on Terence.

62. But, poor souls, they understand not that in the passage of Solomon is meant, that there is no innovation in the essence of natural things ; all transmutations on the same matter, being into forms, which, as they differ from some, so have an essential uniformity with others pre-existent in the same kind.

63. And when it was said by Paul, Beware of philosophers, he meant such sophisters as themselves, who, under the vizzard of I know not what, corrupt the channels of the truth, and pervert all philosophy and learning.

64. As for the sayings of Terence, whether Scipio couched them or himself, they ought to be inferred rather as testimonies of neat Latine, then for asserting of infallible verities.

65. If there hath been no new thing under the sun, according to the adulterate sense of those pristinary lobcocks, how comes the invention of syllogisms to be attributed to Aristotle, that of the sphere to Archimedes, and logarithms to Napier? It was not Swart, then, and Gertudenburg, that found out gunpowder and the art of printing, for these two men lived after the decease of Solomon.

Quinion points to an article entitled “Fragment of a Literary Romance”, in an issue of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine from 1817, for another instance of fidimplicitary, this time modifying coxcombs, they “who fill our too credulous ears with their quisquiliary deblaterations”, and Google Print comes through again with the relevant passage:

([says the author] I have attempted here an imitation of the extraordinary style of Sir Thomas Urquhart, a man of genius, as none who have perused his inimitable translation of part of Rabelais will be disposed to deny, or his extraordinary account of the murder of the admirable Crichton, in his tracts (under the one named the Jewel), but in other respects of the most ridiculous pretensions, and these conveyed in the most quaint and unintelligible phraseology, as every one who has turned over his Introduction to a Universal Language will most readily allow. Most of the singular words in this speech of Sir Thomas are either sanctioned by his own authority, or coined according to those rules he seems to have adopted. both orderly digested and aptly conceived.)

“Truly, sieur,” replied Sir Thomas, “your observations on those antiquated times, as they are now called by those shallow and fidimplicitary coxcombs, who fill our too credulous ears with their quisquiliary deblaterations, appear to me both orderly digested and aptly conceived. We have lived, sir, in those great eras, those commendable measurements of the regent of this diurnal microcosme, those exalted periodi, by which the sagacity of the sapient philosophunculi of this rotundal habitation, hath measured the unceasing rotations of the caelicolary spheroids, in those times, seignior, when the old were respected, arid in all estimation —the young sweet and judicious —the married women decorous rather than decorated, grave as well as gravidae —the virgins pure and pitiful —the youth becomingly silent, and more given to listen to the legislative or literatorie discussions of their elders, than to any cunning tricks or vulpicularic conundrums, to the jeers, gibes, mopes, quips, jests, or jerks of their simiatick companions. Gallantry, sir, (said he, turning to me) or the exalted science of demulceating the amiable reservedness, and overcoming the attractive pudicity, of the gentler sex, by the display of rare and excellent endowments [sic!], was a discipline worthy of the accomplished chevaliers of these most memorable eras.”

Edwardian voices

My recent immersion in digitizing vinyl (lately it’s been Greek stuff from the 1930s) has put me in mind of the problems and possibilities of managing collections of sound, musical and otherwise. An hour of BBC Four on British dialects, based in an archive of hundreds of recordings of WW I British POWs in Germany, hints at a huge task of digitization and a delicious prospect of analysis.


Fairly often I’m gobsmacked by the complexities of things I knew just a bit about. Latest case in point: the perhaps-fatuous domain of lolcat, referenced in today’s Language Log. I mean, I did know about

but I didn’t grasp its deeper significance. See more on the harbl meme… and a couple of hours later, LOL-Kitteh as a Second Language (LKSL-101) in Five Easy Steps, via The Lexicographer’s Rules. Whatever NEXT?

Still trying to figure out spam

I don’t hold any brief for the Importance of this thread, but to the degree that I’m a student of human communication (a hat I sometimes try on in front of the mirror), I’m fascinated by stuff that’s at the edges of the comprehensible. This morning I saw the spamsubject “actication actifation actiwation actigation” and just had to look at the message it was shilling for. Here it is, and once again I’m baffled (and this time no Louisa May Alcott that I can discern…):

Jersey north carolina ohio oklahoma oregon rhode island tennessee. Wwwktmch wwwlidilde sty wwwloscom wwwlotto ptr wwwmapes.
Yuka yule yung yuo yuotube yuotup, yupy yusuf. Dedtectors dietectors deitectors, dhetectors. Yobynet yobynetsp yoga espaol.
Twats lkr damn ugly hostel! Detehctors detsectors detesctors detexctors. Sinksby, bly survivors stories charges gone wild founder. Cracl cracm aaltn alltn alttn, altnn ccrack crrack craack. Commands your shells contacting meet needs names and. Wwsexcom wwsexde wwterras, wwyou tubecom wwe wwelayla wwecom. Sun scenic design sue. Auatralia auwtralia auctralia auetralia.
Trademarks, statement trust human?
Attempt steal fileif valuable stored, encryption integrity. Wwyou tubecom wwe wwelayla wwecom wwinsock adela. Nation corzine breaks leg ribs crash cbs drops don.
Wwwinfo wwwjyskpl wwwkde wwwlf. Television mouse cinematic slide music. Military, associated cedit alsolook, wiktionary relating, stub expanding.
Anny, wazowny, gd nr.
Wwwikea wwwil meteoit wwwingr wwwinboxlv wwwinfomg wwwinpsit wwwinterit wwwitvppl. Barskip centerskip subscribe nowskip, about index frequent raquoaz agency.
Detectofrs detectorfs detectodrs detectords detectoras detectorsa detectorws, detectorsw detectorse.
Into andyg, uv started readin dis. Adding sodas drinkapple upcoming leopard launch instead pick obvious. Ahovska zveza lovek uvari gromova aaa rtliche. Flavor, possible goodness sake invent new marketing pmdeeddawg koolaid.
Wioteczne witeczne witujemy wityt mikoaj ifreli, szler.

What can the Semantic Web make of this?

Another new genre?

uncharacteristically bacteria
He between disembowel
He yourselves causate
chiropractor untie
Go millard my distraught

I’ve been continuing to grab spam subject line text, but I’ve just discovered a NEW possibility that seems to unlock a Joycean reservoir of litrachur in a genre I didn’t even know existed, and can’t imagine how it’s generated. W&L’s new spam filter lets you see the content(s) of a spamunit before you discard it. Here’s one:

but??voice, van corked the bottle at a blow, threw down the corkscrew, spells hard, fussy words, like chi-rog-ra-phy and bron-chi-tis as their favorite nourishment is the seed-cake; apples also are freely
but but by train. nowadays there are fewer trains and henry, a: could you tell her to give doug a call when she gets back???the instant she saw him she felt that there was no hope, for she
the instant she saw him she felt that there was no hope, for she??and rose began to cuddle it in the fond, foolish way women have ‘i don’t worry about sat looking at the friendly words, as they took a new meaning, and
from the doctor to “hold the lamp a little higher, please,” or an “oh, put basin, sponge, towels, and a block of brown soap into my hands, eyes with her hand, and took a long look at a figure down in the??by storm, and held her position, in spite of doctors, matron, and
“i saw her going down the avenue??him that his dear mistress was coming back on the following saturday. “we’ll remember, mother!” and drift along blindly. watch and pray, dear nat; and while your hand
twice round the triangle without stopping, a star for emil, who “yes, dear, that is the true can never be the polished gentleman that my poor departed friend, ball,” proposed audacious molly loo, always ready for fun.??f: where
then, as she vanished,??”she will wait and wait, mother, so dazzled by the brilliancy and beauty that has suddenly of years gone by, and put up a splendid procession of ladies
another with every aggravation they could invent, as they and passion. to regard them as soberly as the enthusiastic mamma did. and??flash:??gods, and i will try to like yours,’ said bess, beginning time is 8:45.
henceforth.” wrathful, &c. none of the stories are precisely those of aesop, last, “and that is to return to the nome king and oblige him world.??whose kind old heart was full of sympathy, which he longed
“i do not know,” said the head; “but last, for the mirror had plainly told her that she was ‘a don’t expect perfection, but i should like one as good as model, and let us see you,” said her uncle, with an approving??voyage. it was a very different story from the written one;??half-fierce, half-imploring eyes of a wild animal caught in
those who had missed so great a blessing. to get upset about. were continually dodging his long arms

I’d have thought it was nowt but fluke, but then along comesd another:

Tackled, adjunct design challenges howeverby andrew binstock principal analyst. Goodies xceed suite theme med. Esc selects button press tab taskbar, shiftf context.
Hard there included shows preview, selective possible. Openmp set interfaces greatly simplifies. Policy copy, pty ltd rights.
Maximize close windowalt, althyphen.
Which of the, current.
Link featured netjava unified voice messaging powerco.
Formats supported, quicktime avi mjpeg mpeg!
Optimized ear drum rocking.
Deari know they thinking clear, huge change.
Filterkeys num, lock togglekeys offleft altleft shiftnum mousekeys? Planni study animation company demand solutio.
Collapses expanded otherwise childleft parentback property tabsback. Regular dosage, two, grains!
Up to ussubmit, policyrss with, usapc back issues may.
Tutorials sitemap hot, alliances submit, job. Reserved keyboard shortcuts, homeselect.

What interests me here is that these texts don’t mean nothing, indeed may really mean something if one has the Magic Decoder Ring. I continue to await developments, and hope others can shed some light on What It All Means.

free-form spam subject-line poetry, redux

Gardner’s What poetry form am I? pointer has led me to thinking about realms of the poetic, not generally something I do much of. I discover that I’m beyond simple vexation with spam, on the Other Side of simple vexation, where I start to perceive the glory in the medium of the spam subject line. Nick, over at Voice 0’Reason, has been on this case for a while, and I’ve been inspired (in great admiration for his efforts) to start harvesting the stuff myself. Today’s haul has pushed me over the edge, into what I fear may become a recurring obsession:

To myself watchmen
on epistemology my byroad
was cerebellum many wherein
It everything tutorial
It augment ourselves proviso
shut about-face
Is posterity untill dearth

One could argue for different ordering of the lines, adding punctuation, or executing edits (‘untill’ is just too poeticall, isn’t it?), but I’m for letting it stand as it falls, and Devil take the hindmost. What we have here is a new genre, and it calleth forth Utilities to support its gleaning and promulgation (a metric analyzer, for those who would have anapests and the like; a random combo generator to burrow through the corpus; a grand Corpus for the combo generator to work upon; usw…).

State, dog and syntax

Here’s a book some of you will love and need to possess, one more from my MIT Press Bookstore haul of a few weeks ago: Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style

Savor (or, if outside the US, enjoy the extra opportunity and savour) the opening paragraphs, which follow an exemplary quotation:

And the words slide into slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning.
Anthony Burgess, Enderby, 406

Anthony Burgess is right: it is the words that shine and sparkle and glitter, sometimes radiant with the author’s inspired choice. But it is syntax that gives words the power to relate to each other in a sequence, to create rhythms and emphasis, to carry meaning –of whatever kind– as well as glow individually in just the right place.

The basic unit of English syntax is the clause. Its “slots ordained by syntax” are a subject and a predicate. What traditional grammarians call a “simple” sentence consists of an independent clause, independent in that it makes sense without being attached to anything: Time flies. Without losing its nature as a basic sentence, however, a “simple” sentence may include optional added slots such as spaces for modifiers, complements, objects. (pg. 9)

I suppose one could read the book as didactic, but it never descends to the nagging prescriptive, and few would sit down to read it: the book invites random visitation, nibbling, pick-up-and-put-down. Ideal bathroom reading, for those so inclined. It is about syntax, so it’s stuffed with terminology that one has perhaps too tenuous a grasp upon: appositive, participial, nominative. But the commentary is focused on more than a thousand examples, lovingly chosen and clearly explicated. And the book is beyond elegant in design and typography (Monotype Dante), as befits something from Edward Tufte’s Graphics Press. VT is ET’s mom, professor emerita from USC, Miltonist and historian of English. And if you don’t know who Edward Tufte is, you need to remedy that deficiency forthwith.

Followup on Semasiology

I happened upon a wonderful quotation from Thucydides, in Donald J. Boudreaux’ posting to the History News Network Group Blog, to which I’ve added some emphasis:

Practically the whole of the Hellenic world was convulsed, with rival parties in every state – democratic leaders trying to bring in the Athenians, and oligarchs trying to bring in the Spartans…. To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect…. As a result…there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The plain way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.

–this linked in a comment by Andy Vance, accompanying shownotes for tonight’s Radio Open Source interview with Lawrence Wilkerson