Monday 11 April 2011

Big words

Bill Pearson, in his essay Fretful Sleepers, noted that New Zealanders did not like big words. They did not like to use them and they did not like to hear them. I realised this recently when I used the word amanuensis in an illustrated lecture I gave to Ian Wedde’s inspiring new course on art writing for the University of Auckland’s Department of Art History. The students had obviously not heard that word uttered recently or maybe even at all.

I was talking about the fashion we have for art writers to function as advocates. I used some writings by David Sylvester to illustrate this point. His conversations with Francis Bacon are probably some of the most acute questions ever spoken to a twentieth century British artist. We do not have many such conversations between artists and writers published in New Zealand. Is this fashion or fear?

Back to big words! For a heady selection, I recommend:

They email words daily and they are always left field. Here is today’s word: apastron (noun) In astronomy, that part in the orbit of a double star where it is furthest from its primary. 'Apastron' comes from the Greek word for 'star.'

Example: "Consequently, neither star can approach or recede from this point without the other affecting a similar motion, they must be at periastron and apastron together, and any acceleration or retardation of speed must occur simultaneously with each." - The Astronomy of Milton's 'Paradise Lost'

View previous words of the day:

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