Priamel is a word I’ve run across now and again over the years, and every time I run across it I have to look it up afresh, since I retain no memory of it except that it’s from German and has the stress on the second syllable (Brit. /prᵻˈaml/, U.S. /prᵻˈæm(ə)l/). I’m posting about it here in the hope that doing so will fix it in my mind for the next encounter. Here’s the OED entry (updated March 2007):
Inflections: Plural priameln, priamels.
Forms: also with capital initial.
Etymology: < German Priamel type of short poem (from c1465 to the early 16th cent. in the title of such poems; subsequently from 1779 in literary criticism), literary device in classical poetry (1935 or earlier), variant of preambel type of short poem (c1460 in the title of such poems), apparently a spec. use of preambel preamble (now Präambel; < post-classical Latin praeambulum preamble n.). Compare French priamèle (1868 or earlier; < German).
In plural form priameln after the German plural form.
Originally: a type of short poem cultivated in Germany in the 15th and 16th centuries, culminating in a witty or ingenious turn of thought. Later applied to similar literary forms; spec. (in ancient Greek poetry) a device in which a number of items or options, culminating in a preferred one, are listed for comparison.
1889 Amer. Jrnl. Philol. 10 360 Euling furnishes the text of a MS of the fifteenth century .. containing epigrams, and emends his own edition of ‘Priameln’.
1938 PMLA 53 65 A Priamel is generally moralizing, didactic, humorous, and satirical… Rosenplüt was the best Priamel-poet.
1978 M. L. West Hesiod’s Wks. & Days 269 The recommendation of holm-oak for the plough-tree is reinforced by a priamel.
1988 Literary Rev. Aug. 45/1 Race calls Keats’ ‘on first looking into Chapman’s Homer’ a priamel.
2001 Phoenix 55 293 He includes Thais in a kind of priamel of previous record-holders.
One problem is that the original meaning has little or nothing to do with the “device in which a number of items or options, culminating in a preferred one, are listed for comparison,” and neither has much to do with “preamble,” which makes the whole thing hard to remember. I find the recommended plural priameln intolerably pedantic. And whoever Race is or was, I think it’s pretty silly to call “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” a priamel. But I am very taken with the sentence “Rosenplüt was the best Priamel-poet.”