SOMEWHAT CALIGINOUS.

A delightful quote, cribbed from Anatoly:

Professor Edgeworth, of All Souls’, avoided conversational English, persistently using words and phrases that one expects to meet only in books. One evening, Lawrence returned from a visit to London, and Edgeworth met him at the gate. “Was it very caliginous in the Metropolis?”
“Somewhat caliginous, but not altogether inspissated”, Lawrence replied gravely.
—Robert Graves, Good-Bye to All That, p. 372.

I presume this is the Edgeworth in question; this biographical sketch includes a nice quote: “Besides we owe him something, like a good German he knew that the Greek k is not a modern c, and, if any of you at any time wonder where the k in Biometrika comes from, I will frankly confess that I stole it from Edgeworth. Whenever you see that k call to mind dear old Edgeworth.”

Comments

  1. Well, you learn something every day, at least if you hang around LH.
    This charming quote led me to ask several basic questions:
    Who is this Lawrence? All I can think is D.H.
    What is this word “caliginous”? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but I may have heard it. Could it be something the Wizard of Oz calls the Tin Man?
    What is this word “inspissated”? I’ve seen it, but I’m afraid if I ever looked it up it didn’t stick.
    So, a quick round of research on internet and OED and now I know:
    (1) No, T.E. (“of Arabia”)
    (2) Yes, apparently, although I always imagined a different spelling. “You dare to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!” But I liked the line a little better before I knew what that word meant. (Dark junk? Misty junk? Humbug!)
    (3) Thickened. I think I did know that once. So basically fog as pea soup.
    Also,
    (4) Edgeworth at one time attempted to court Beatrice Potter, but she rebuffed him, and referred to him as the “tiresome little professor”.
    (5) Beatrice Potter is not the same as Beatrix Potter.
    (6) Edgeworth had one Irish parent and one Catalonian parent, something he shares with Patrick O’Brien’s fictional Dr. Maturin.
    I’ll stop here.

  2. Beatrice Potter is Beatrice of Sidney-and-Beatrice Webb fame.

  3. (9) While in Jordan (trans-Jordan?) T.E. Lawrence was bitten by a scorpion on the hand.

  4. I find there’s a “Wizard of Oz vocabulary” industry on the internet. The quote is cited as an example of alliteration, and somebody supposes, with a schoolmarmy moue, that the Wizard “really meant to say” ferruginous.
    Fatevver. The OED gives for caliginosity “dimness of sight”, which the Wizard might have really meant if the Tin Man had needed spectacles instead of a heart.

    Daniel Deronda: I prefer a cheerful caliginosity, as Sir Thomas Browne might say

    Caliginosity appears in Worthless word for the day, where there is also a link to our Hat.

  5. I was once very interested in some of Edgeworth’s ideas about statistics (which I got from a book called The Contributions of F. Y. Edgeworth to Mathematical Statistics, or something like that) and went to talk to a statistician about them. He was quite amused that anyone in the 1970s would still care about what Edgeworth had thought, and referred to him as “Edgeworth of old”. Although he was completely eclipsed by people like R. A. Fisher and Karl Pearson in the early 20th century he was very important in his time.

  6. mollymooly says:

    Considering the scarecrow confuses isosceles and right triangles, give the wizard a break.
    I presume “conversatonal” is a typo rather than a word Graves and Edgeworth know and me, Merriam and Webster don’t.

  7. I presume “conversatonal” is a typo
    Oops! Corrected, thanks.

  8. Re: (9) While in Jordan (trans-Jordan?) T.E. Lawrence was bitten by a scorpion on the hand.
    Most people prefer to be stung by scorpions. One more example of Lawrence needing to do things his own way.

  9. (10) at night

  10. Most people prefer not to be stung by scorpions, in my experience.

  11. Most people prefer not to be stung by scorpions, in my experience.

  12. Most people prefer not to be stung by scorpions, in my experience.
    If I had to choose I’d prefer to be bitten.

  13. Mertseger says:

    @Athel Certainly a lot of Statistics was developed after Edgeworth, but the Edgeworth Expansion is still well known, well used and cited in graduate-level work across the globe. I don’t think it’s common to dismiss his work in the field.

  14. Edgeworth is highly regarded, if now rarely read, in economics, his name being commemorated in the Edgeworth box, a beautiful illustration of simple notions of general market equilibrium still taught to economics students.
    He is perhaps unique in the unusual fact that his own name could serve as a definition of a key concept, “marginal utility”, in the type of economic theory he was instrumental in developing.

  15. John Emerson says:

    I like the WWftD site, but perhaps a third of the words are obviously worthful for someone who reads pre-contemporary literature or is engaged in specialized studies of various kinds, and some are merely ordinary derivative forms of ordinary words, with obvious meanings, that didn’t happen to catch on. “Adumbrate”, “aegis”, and “adipose” all appear on the same screen, and I’ve seen all of them many times (the last of them in medicine).

  16. John Emerson says:

    A different screen includes “animadversion”, “animus”, “anodyne”, and “anomie”, all of them also quite usable words.

  17. @John: It’s all titter-and-squeak, that site:

    meta-disclaimer – use of the term worthless should be considered to be either smart aleck or ironic, depending on your level of involvement and sophistication.

         “I never meta disclaimer I didn’t like” – Bob Syeruncle

    meta-meta-disclaimer – our intent is not to adjudge these words as irredeemably worthless, or to disworth them, but rather to suggest that some of our most obscure and neglected words may actually be worthy of everyday use; caveat lector.

    or, as Arthur Plotnik states in Spunk & Bite, “Anything but worthless.”

  18. From the page Grumbly linked to:
    THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

  19. From a pataphysical map of Paris:
    THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BANK

  20. Hat, your editor doesn’t support the element any more!? “BLANK” should be struck through in “THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK”.

  21. Meantersay:
    Hat, your editor doesn’t support the <strike> element any more!? “BLANK” should be struck through in “THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK”.

  22. Hat’s his own editor.

  23. Hat’s posting layout software

  24. I suppose it would be too much to ask Ms. Hat to be the “second pair of eyes”, but wouldn’t a cameo appearance be fun?

  25. Speaking of ferruginosity, how the devil can the Tin Woodman rust at all? It can scarcely be hot enough in Oz, even in the Quadling Country, for his body to be transformed into cassiterite. Are we rather to suppose that his flesh was in fact replaced by a rather despicable grade of galvanized iron?

  26. D’oh.

    From a pataphysical map of Paris:

    THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BANK

  27. Nijma, you’re not the only one who did a slow motion double take on this.

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