An English In Kentucky


















Sunday April 15th 2012    Tim Candler

    The word "pontificate" arrives via a Medieval Latin word meaning "act as an ecclesiastic."  Which itself was a reworking of the Latin word "Pontifex."  Which was the title of  "a man on the highest council of priests."  And more often, a conjunction of the words, "highest," "council" and "priest," implies a successful career in a profession which places value on interpreting the relationship between members of our species and what I will describe as "The Great Mystery of Being."

     "Pontificate," is to express opinions or judgments in a pompous or dogmatic way.  Safe to say,  I actually prefer the expression, "Laying down the law about the habits of Baboons and the number of quills a Porcupine has got."  A splendid annunciation of  meaning in the word pontificate that I first heard from a man in a wheel chair, or was it the tenor who played piano. I do remember one was called Flanders, the other called Swann.

    Either way,  for the next couple of days, I intend to pontificate. Achieve levels of self importance that go so far beyond pompous, they will mushroom into "megalomania," or even "smug."

    Some might ask the question, "Why forsake a perfectly reasonable expression like 'Laying down the law,' for a word which in our language has so long an association with Gods,  Godliness and their Priests?"   My answer has to do with the word "Greedy." 

    Greedy, comes to English from Anglo Saxon words that combined "hunger" with "covetousness."  And here I like one of the German words for "greedy" which is  "habsüchtig."  "Haben" means "have."  "Sücht"  has a meaning that lies somewhere in the words  "sickness" or "disease" or "obsession" or "addiction" or "fever."  And interesting to note that when attempting to divine the meaning of the word  "habsüchtig"  many favor the idea that "sickness" or "disease" is meant in the more respectable sense of  "passion for."  Rather than in the physiological sense of running a terminal fever then succumbing to disfiguring pox or incurable palsy. 

    So Yes, I would like to spend the next couple of days pontificating. Becoming a pulpiteer. Hanging out the bucket.  Thumping the drum on the corner of the street, as I have seen others do.  Poor, self righteous bastard.

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