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."


  1. Hey you made it! And 3 minutes before midnight, too! ;)

    Lass...I wonder if I can get anyone to call me 'lass' LOL! Nicely done, Caitlin!

    Operose does sound tedious. Guess what? I know the Japanese equivalent for tedious, but I don't know how to spell it here. :(

  2. Yeah...I seem to be making increasingly close calls on my deadline ;) I have a good excuse though! My sister (who words in Kuwait) surprised us by showing up at the back door last weekend, so we've been deferring most of our non-work activities to spend time with her.

    Why, thank you, lass ;) 'Tis kind of you to say.

    Really? Do you speak Japanese?

  3. I don't really speak Japanese, but I've been there once to visit my hubby's parents when they lived there for 3 years. And I picked up some Japanese. Also, my sis-in-law is Japanese.

    I can say: (don't mind the spelling)

    Watashi wa Cherie. Genki des ka? (My name is Cherie. How are you?)

    Sumimasen (excuse me)

    And a bit more, but I can't hold a conversation to save my life. ;) (My hubs & his family are Americans btw. Not Japanese.) :)

  4. I wouldn't know how to spell anything Japanese properly anyway, so no worries :)

    I can say a few things in Italian:

    Mi chiamo Caitlin, et tu? (I am called Caitlin, and you?)

    Salve (hello)

    And a few other minor phrases, but my life better not depend on my Italian at this point...'cause I'd die ;)


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