A Word for Wednesday

Before I get to the last O word of the year, I want to take a quick moment to apologize to all my faithful readers. I have been sadly neglecting all of you, both here on my blog and on all of yours. I will catch up on reading and commenting on all the insightful and amusing and educational and wonderful things I'm sure you've been sharing. It'll probably take me a while at this rate, but I'll get there. Graduation is around the corner, and once I'm done being a full time student, you'll see me around on a more regular basis. So bear with me until then :) In the meantime, I have another word for you.

Oxlike - a. Resembling an ox

I kid ;) That's not actually today's word. But I've come across so many of those kind of circular definitions that I had to share one of them. Oxlike means that something looks like an ox? Really? That's genius. The last pages of the O section were literally filled likewise self-explanatory words. I was hoping (again) to use the last entered word, but

Oyster-woman - n. A woman whose occupation is to sell oysters

isn't exactly useful or a particularly interesting word. So, I ended up picking today's word because I like tone of the definition, and because I can hear it in a story. And since I'm slowly sinking in a swamp of schoolwork, I'm taking the short and sweet route. Here it is:

Oyes - [Fr. oyez, hear ye] This word is used by the sheriff or his substitute in making proclamation in court, requiring silence and attention. It is thrice repeated, and most absurdly pronounced, O yes.

The American Heritage Dictionary had an interesting note on the origin of this word. It says, "The courtroom cry "Oyez, oyez, oyez," has probably puzzled more than one auditor, especially if pronounced "O yes." (Many people have thought that the words were in fact O yes.) This cry serves to remind us that up until the 18th century, speaking English in a British court of law was not required and one could instead use Law French, a form of French that evolved after the Norman Conquest, when Anglo-Norman became the language of the official class in England. Oyez descends from the Anglo-Norman oyez, the plural imperative form of oyer, "to hear"; thus oyez means "hear ye" and was used as a call for silence and attention. Although it would have been much heard in Medieval England, it is first recorded as an English word fairly late in the Middle English period, in a work composed around 1425."

I wasn't able to find the work mentioned above, but I was able to find a treasure trove of examples in A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors. It's a twenty-one volume collection complied by a certain T.B.Howell, Esq. in London, published in 1816. I won't post all of them, but I'll give you a smattering.

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Our sovereign lord the king strictly charges and commands all manner of persons to keep silence, upon pain of impisonment."

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Lieutenant of the Tower of London , bring forth your prisoner to the bar, according to the order of the House of Lords to you directed."

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Our sovereign lord the king does strictly charge and command all manner of persons here present, and that have here attended, to depart hence in the peace of God, and of our soveriegn lord the king; for his grace my lord high steward of Great Britain intends now to disolve his commission."

I'm sure the serjeant of arms got tired of saying "oyes, oyes, oyes" before whatever else he was supposed to say, but I like it. It's very official sounding. And if you throw a British accent in, it sounds even better. Now to use it myself...

"I couldn't see him.

I squirmed around two men with pudgy legs and shiny shoe buckles.

I had to see him.

There were black coats, and powdered wigs, and heeled shoes, and fancy pocket watches everywhere. They were all crowding me and I couldn't get past them. I needed to get past them. I spied the pews up ahead and pushed and shoved until I got to them. I started crawling under them. Someone stepped on my fingers once. Is this what mice felt like when they tried to cross the roads when the carriages were running? I heard someone curse and pulled my feet up under the pew as fast as I could. I waited for someone to bend over and see what had tripped them. If they found me, I would be in trouble. But no one did so I started crawling again.

There he was. I stayed there under the first pew in the courtroom, but I could see him at last. He looked tired. He never looked tired. There were two soldiers by him, one on each side. They were holding his arms. I wanted him to look at me. Wished for him to look at me.

A sharp rap sounded and the courtroom filled with lords. Father watched them come in. I watched them too. What were they going to do to him?

"Oyes, Oyes, Oyes!" a man I couldn't see called out. "Our sovereign lord the king strictly charges and commands all manner of persons to keep silence, upon pain of impisonment."

Everyone stopped talking. No one even whispered.

"Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Lieutenant of the Tower of London, bring forth your prisoner."

One of the soldier men brought Father forward and put him in a little booth. Some other man stood up and started talking. He accused Father. He called him a traitor.

"You're lying!" I scrambled out from under the pew and ran at him. "Father loves the king, he would never betray him. You lier!"

Someone was holding me back. I kept flailing and shouting, "Let him go. He didn't do anything. You have to let him go!"

Someone picked me up. I started kicking, but it was no use. They were taking me away. I couldn't stop them. And Father, he couldn't stop them either. The soldiers had crossed spears in front of him.


A Word for Wednesday

Oscitancy - n. [L. oscito, to yawn, from os, the mouth] The act of gaping or yawning. 2. Unusual sleepiness; drowsiness; dullness

I'm afraid that, yet again, I have no history to give you on this word. It must be something with the O's. Their history is either protected from google or has never been recorded. Neither option helps me ;) But, I was able to find some neat examples of this word's use. The examples include the adverb, adjective, verb, and second noun form of this word (oscitantly, oscitant, oscitate, and oscitation respectively), so don't be suprised if "oscitancy" isn't the exact word used every time.

The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language provided most of them. Two are from a certain Dr. H More. I tried to find his original work so I could get a better handle on the context of the included sentences. I was unsuccessful, so you'll have take your best guess as to what he's actually talking about when he says,  "Which those drowsy nodders over the letter of the Scripture have very oscitantly collected." "Our oscitant, lazy, piety," though, makes sense. I don't recognize any of the other authors, but I'll share their sentences so you get an idea for how this word and it's various forms are used: "It might proceed from the oscitancy of the transcribers." - Addison. "My treatise on oscitation, laughter, and ridicule." - Tatler. And, "He expresses in them no sort of humane sentiment towards these unfortunate men, but the utmost indignation at the oscitancy of those in power, which connived at the public demonstrations of sympathy." - Hallam.

I also found a passage from none other than John Milton. In his prose works, he starts discussing the will of God and how God cannot contradict Himself because of His own character. If it wasn't written in Old English and if I could cut and paste from GoogleBooks, I'd start at the beginning of his argument. Since I don't have time to transcribe it all manually, I'll skip to the part where he uses our word: "...his legal justice cannot be so fickle and so variable, sometimes like a devouring fire, and by and by connivent in the embers, or, if I may so say, oscitant and supine. The vigor of his law could no more remit, than the hallowed fire upon his altar could be let go out."

So there you have it - a new way to describe a sleepy someone (or thing). I now have exactly 27 minutes to come up with a story...next time I give myself a challenge like this, will someone remind me not to schedule it on a day where I normally work full hours and then have jiu-jitsu class at night? It's really not the most brilliant of plans ;) And now I have 25 minutes. Um...

"I set the quill down and rubbed at my eyelids. My work was nowhere near complete, though the sunrays streaming onto the manuscript from behind me had started to turn rosy. I covered a yawn as one of the elder brother's walked past. 

"There is no place for oscitancy here, young one," he said in the gentle, solemn voice all the brothers seemed to share. "Apply yourself until the day is done."

I picked up the quill once more, dipped it in the ink, and began again where I had left off - filling the block letter with beauty fit for the king himself."


A Word for Wednesday

Opprobrious - a. 1. Reproachful and contemptuous; scurrilous. 2. Blasted with infamy; despised; rendered hateful

"Blasted with infamy" - how's that for a description? I like it. It's very forceful. But I'm supposed to be talking about the word itself, not a phrase in the definition. So, back on topic: opprobrious. I was so excited when I saw a little italic "Milton" below the entry in the dictionary for this word. It seemed, at least to me, like it's been a while since I found a word that a famous author used in their famous work. This one is used twice in a classic literary masterpiece that I have yet to read (it's on the top of my read-after-graduation list): Paradise Lost by John Milton.

If it weren't for highlighted search results, I would never have found Milton's first use of this word. It's buried in his description of the chiefs from the pit of hell who "with their darkness durst affront his light."

"First Moloch, horrid king besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and paretn's tears,
Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard, that passed through the fire
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipped in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighborhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna called, the type of hill."

I don't know about you, but I got all confused when I read about Solomon building his temple ('cause it's clearly not referring to the temple of Jerusalem) on the "opprobrious hill." I don't know why I always forget that Solomon started worshipping all his wives' idols at the end of his life but 2 Kings 23:13 describes the opprobrious hill a little differently: "And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abominationes of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile."

Milton's uses the word yet again in a rousing speech by Moloch. He:

"Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair
He reckoned not, and these words thereafter spake:
     "My sentence is for open war. Of wiles,
      More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
      Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
      For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest,
      Millions that stand in arms and longing wait
      The signal to ascent, sat lingering here,
      Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
      Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
      The prison of his tyranny who reigns
      By our delay? No! Let us rather choose,
      Armed with hell-flames and fury - all - at once -
      O'er heaven's high towers to force resistless way
      Turning our tortures into horrid arms
      Against the torturer."

I don't think we could have been given a better illustration of how to use this word, do you? Just don't compare my usage with his, all right? Because he's John Milton and I'm, well, not. I will use the word. Have no fear on that count. Whether I use it well or poorly, though, you will have to judge. 

"Peter, don't you dare go through there," I shouted, tripping over the shattered gargoyles in the courtyard, spilling the apples. "Do not open that door!" 

"What will you do if I do?" he shouted back. 

"I'll leave you here and you'll have to deal with whatever evil lies behind that door by yourself."

His little face blanched and his fingers started to slip off the giant ring that served as a handle.

"You're too young to understand but it's an opprobrious place." It was deathly quiet and the apples looked too bright. I grabbed his hand. "We shouldn't be here. Let's go."

"No!" He yanked his hand free. "I'm not too young. And I'm not scared. It's just an old building."

Before I could stop him, he opened the door and wriggled inside. It closed behind him. I hardly heard the thud over the beating of my heart. What had he done? I looked around. Gargoyle faces laughed at me with their hideous faces, prodding me to leave this horrid, infamous place. I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to. But Peter. I faced the doors. I placed a hand on the ring and a dreadful creak sounded behind me. I spun to see the twisted iron gate closing and dead leaves blowing across the yard. I dropped the bag and dashed inside to the sound of apples bumping down the steps behind me.


A Word for Wednesday

Today we welcome O words to the blogosphere. I've been looking forward to today, thinking things like, "O, happy day" "O, this will be fun" "O, I bet there are a lot of really interesting words I can bring for this month." And then I started looking at the words. Did you know that most of the O section in the dictionary are derivative forms of the same words? Or that the definitions for "on" and "our" last three pages? 'Tis true, on both counts. I had to get all the way to op- words before I found a worthy word:

Operose - a. [L. operosus, from opera, operor] Laborious; attended with labor; tedious

It makes me happy to have replacement word for tedious. Don't get me wrong, tedious is a terrific word but tedious things spoken of tediously can be tremendously tiring. (I couldn't resist. I'm in an alliterative mood.) It's a good thing to be your own thesaurus. The more you can swap words within a sentences without changing the meaning, the more freedom you have to set the mood, add to the atmosphere, and clarify your style and voice. And it gives you a huge advantage in Scrabble.

I suspect, though, that Edmund Burke - the Irish statesmen, orator, author, and sundry other things - didn't have time to play Scrabble. He did, however, use our word in two of his addresses. Or he used it twice in the same address. I'm not sure.  He changed subjects so many times in The Speeches of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke that I'm not sure where one speech ended and another began. Here is the first time he used it: "We thought, Sir, that the utmost which the discontented colonists could do, was to disturb the authority; we never dreamt they could of themselves supply it; knowing in general what an operose business it is, to establish a government absolutely new." After moving from American colonial politics to economics and accounting, he uses it the second time, saying, "A complex, operose office, of account and and control, is in itself, and even if members of Parliament had nothing to do with it, the most prodigal of all things. The most audacious robberies, or the most subtle frauds, would never venture upon such a waste, as an over-careful, detailed guard against them will infallibly produce."

Lucy Aikin uses the word a bit differently in her Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth. I was unable to find the full context of this quote. I could only uncover the usage itself, the book title, and the author's name. I wasn't able to read sample pages or search the entire book on GoogleBooks like I normally do. So, your surmises will be as good as mine as to what "they" refers to: "They were conducted on a scale of grandeur and expense which may still surprise; but taste as yet was in its infancy, and the whole was characterized by the unmerciful tediousness, the ludicrous incongruities, and the operose pedantry of a semi-barbarous age."

Obviously, operose has a wide range of appropriate use. It can fit as easily into a regular description as it can into a political treatise or Parliamentary proceedings. So now you have one more word to choose from when faced with describing some wearisome thing :) Onward to the story clip! Assuming I can think of one in the next few minutes...

"Your mother's a calling you, lass," Duncan said, a blast of cold air rushing inside with him. "Best not keep her."

"Aye, I've stayed too long already." I tucked the wool closer around the little ones packed into the bed like newborn kine in straw. "Send for me if they worsen?"

He nodded. I wrapped myself in own wools and was pulling the door closed behind me when he called my name. I turned back, expecting him to be seated by the hearth where I had left him. But he was at the door, his hand on the other side of the handle. I looked up at him while the wind bit at my face.

"I cannot thank you enough. It's an operose thing you've been doing these last days, caring for them."

"Please, Duncan, it's nothing. You know what a joy they are to me, and to all of us."
"I'm still obliged to you, lass."

I smiled at him and he almost smiled in return. Then he shut the door and I hurried home, the blasting highland air for my companion. All these years, and he still called me "lass."