Just Above Sunset
January 30, 2005 - Precise Language Can Serve Us Well

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Eric Alterman points out this word that should get more use these days -


Kakistocracy (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition - 2000)

SYLLABICATION:  kak·is·toc·ra·cy
PRONUNCIATION:   kak'i-stok're-se, käki-
NOUN:  Inflected forms: pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies

Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco- +  -cracy. 
Oldest use: 1829.


"Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?" -  1876 OED


In answer to the 1876 question, it seems to be the latter.


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -



Possibly also from the Yiddish "kaka" - as in, "Hooboy, with all these worthless bastards running the place, are we in deep kaka now!"


From our Wall Street attorney -


That was what I was thinking when I read that.  Either way, it works, doesn't it?




The word should be used more.


But wait!  There’s more


I draw your attention to French Word-A-Day … including French life, culture and l'art de vivre... 


Nice layout and good photos…


One of the words last week?


un ours (oors) noun, masculine
  1. a bear

un ours polaire = a polar bear
un ours savant = a trained or performing bear


être un peu ours = to be a bit gruff
avoir ses ours = to have one's period
vivre comme un ours = to be at odds with the world
tourner comme un ours en cage = to pace up and down like a caged animal
un ours mal léché = (a "poorly-licked bear" or one not well cared for by its mother) an uncouth person, a misanthrope


Citation du Jour:

La parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.

Human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars. - Gustave Flaubert




Devenir chèvre
"To become goat"
= s'énerver, s'impatienter / to get worked up, to lose patience


Ménager la chèvre et le chou
"To arrange the goat and the cabbage"
= se conduire de façon à ne vexer personne.
to behave in a way so as not to vex anyone


Avoir un chat dans la gorge
"To have a cat in one's throat"
= être enroué / to be hoarse


Avoir mangé du lion
"To have eaten lion"
= faire preuve d'une énergie surprenante.
to show amazing energy


Chercher des poux à quelqu'un
"To look for bugs on someone"
= lui chercher querelle à tout propos.
to argue with each point


Laid comme un pou
"Ugly as a bug"


Vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué
"To sell the bear's skin before killing it
  (To count one's chickens before they hatch)
= (du succès) disposer d'une chose avant de la posséder.
(on success) to dispose of something before possessing it.


Une peau de vache
"A cow's skin"
= personne très dure, très sévère.
someone who is very hard, very severe.


From our Wall Street attorney –


Human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars. - Gustave Flaubert


If only more people understood this...


Heck, some of us can’t even get bears to dance, much less make things change.


From our Canadian friend –


One my Dad was quite fond of saying if he saw you having a big late-night snack was "Tu vas rever aux ours!"  (You'll be dreaming of bears, implying you were going to have nightmares.)

And he often referred to one of my culinarily-inept uncles as "Un chef pour les ours...."  


Ah, precise language can serve us well.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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Paris readers add nine hours....