I found the section on Visigothic Spain in Wickham’s The Inheritance of Rome a slog (for some reason, names like Chindasuinth, Recceswinth, and Wamba are hard for me to take seriously, and reading about their endless squabbles makes my eyelids droop — incidentally, you can get lists of all the Germanic rulers of Western Europe in this period, along with maps and mini-essays on related subjects, here), so I thought I’d take a look at a book I’d had sitting around for a couple of decades, Bernard F. Reilly’s The Medieval Spains, to get another perspective on it. I was manfully trying to disentangle the regions, names, and heresies when I hit this passage:
The reader will understand, of course, that to speak of the Visigoths, or any other society, as Christian here implies merely a formal and legal adhesion. It prescinds entirely from a judgment on the spiritual or intellectual character of any individual’s religious assent.
I immediately came to attention: it does what? I turned to the OED and found a perfectly good (if recondite) verb I had been unacquainted with:
Etymology: < post-classical Latin praescindere to cut off, to shorten by cutting (4th or 5th cent.) < classical Latin prae- pre- prefix + scindere to cut (see scind v.).
1. trans. To cut off beforehand, prematurely, or abruptly; to remove, cut away.
1636 R. Basset tr. G. A. de Paoli Lives Rom. Emperors 20 The brevity of his reigne prescinded many and great hopes of his good government of the whole Empire.
1872 N. Amer. Rev. July 65 Mr. Buckle does not generally care to prescind matters. It is in his nature rather to affect the circumlocutory and vague.
1994 Buffalo (N.Y.) News (Nexis) 28 Nov. 3 If one were to prescind the whole of federal benefits that go to the poor, you’d come up with about $140 billion per year.
2004 National Rev. 56 1 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court..granted conjugal rights to gays, and the bells tolled, as they did in San Francisco under the patronage of rump political leaders who sought to prescind the law on the question.
2. a. trans. To cut off, detach, or separate from; to abstract from.
1640 J. Sadler Masquarade du Ciel 7 Whether Art or Nature, Sense or Reason, could best separate, abstract, at least prescind, a Sprightly Genius from its Body.
1856 J. F. Ferrier Inst. Metaphysic (ed. 2) . 475 Nor have universal things prescinded from the particular any absolute existence.
1947 M. Lowry Under Volcano iv. 104 The Malebolge was the barranca, the ravine which wound through the country, narrow here—but its momentousness successfully prescinded their minds from the goat.
1996 Wisconsin State Jrnl. (Nexis) 27 July 7 a, Oftentimes it is necessary to prescind the work from the surrounding environment.
3. intr. a. To withdraw attention from; to leave out of consideration; to ignore, put to one side.
1654 T. White Apol. Rushworth’s Dialogues 249 Their very words directly tel him they on purpose resolv’d to prescind from her particular Case, and not determin any thing concerning It in that Decree.
1890 W. S. Lilly Right & Wrong 98 In what I am about to write I prescind entirely from all theological theories and religious symbols.
1977 Times 13 Aug. 14/3 The various denominations..are prescinding from their differences and attending only to those matters about which they are agreed.
2005 Cross Currents (Nexis) 22 Mar. 83 The methods of religious studies generally prescind from any commitment to a particular tradition or any personal self-involvement in a religious path.
b. prescinding from: apart from.
1686 J. Goad Astro-meteorologica i. ii. 6 The Air..must be defin’d, prescinding from all Admistions that are extraneous to it.
1941 Far Eastern Q. 1 87 Prescinding from this misleading treatment of the mission history, the author’s presentation of the Tokugawa Shogunate is most elucidating.
1990 B. Bergon Exploding Eng. (BNC) 145 The last of the Victorian sages, who were men of letters and of affairs, not academics (prescinding from Arnold’s and Ruskin’s marginal tenure of chairs at Oxford).
Although, examining the citations, I see I had not been entirely unacquainted with it, since I read (and loved) Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano years ago; its momentousness must have prescinded my mind from the word as the ravine’s did the characters’ from the goat.