Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Bill Long 10/10/04
Perpendicle/Pend/Pendant et al.
The Oxford Latin Dictionary informs us that there are two different verbs beginning with "pend," to wit, pendo (I hang or suspend) and pendeo (I weigh). The infinitive is spelled the same, though the latter has a long second "e." Thus, when words built upon "pend" came into English, they could bring both the "weighing" and "hanging" function with them. The purpose of this mini-essay is to explore a few of the more vivid "pends" in English.
Everyone knows that something which is "perpendicular" to something else is at right angles to it. But this word is derived from a perpendicle, a plumb-line, a line or string hanging down with lead at the end to ensure that it hangs straight. Just as penetral (plural is penetralia), representing the innermost part or recess of a sanctuary, gave life to the verb "penetrate" (to go after the things in the deepest recesses), so perpendicle gives us a (hanging) picture of what constitutes something that is perpendicular. One of the more interesting uses of perpendicular in English is to describe an architectural style of 15-16th century English cathedrals/chapels, characterized by the vertical lines of its tracery. This "English Perpendicular" style was first identified as such by Thomas Rickman around 1815 as he mourned his wife's death by visiting church after church in England until he decided to write down some of his observations of the churches, thus creating the first systematization of English church architectural styles.
Thus, we expect, and find, that the word pend can mean to "impend," or to "hang over," but it is also used as a noun to mean a pendant or an arch. An arch? Why would something that towers over us be called a pend, unless it appears that the arched or vaulted roof or canopy in some way is "hanging" over us? A pendant is not only a loose hanging ornament generally used as a bracelet or necklace, but can also refer to a "hanging part" of a man---i.e., the testicles. From the 17th century, "They gird themselves with a piece of raw leather, and fasten a square peece like the backe of a Glove, to it, which almost hangs so low as their pendants." But it can also refer to a plumb-line, a pendulum or a hanging shield or chandelier.
Law Gets into the Act
Because law is often characterized by delays, things often happen during the pendency of a suit--while it is going on. Parties, judges, attornies die or become incapacitated. Issues are settled. Life goes on even as cases sometimes never seem to end. I never knew what it was to have a "lifetime case" until I began to practice law as a litigation attorney in 2000 and worked with an attorney who had been working on a case since 1983 (and the case was very much alive when I left the firm in 2003). Lawyers even have a Latin phrase pendente lite, literally translated "while the lawsuit is pending" to describe this reality. "The court will generally allot alimony to the wife pendente lite, or during the continuance of the litigation."
One can reverse the terms to communicate a completely different meaning. Law knows a lis pendens, which is a technical term from property law to describe a sort of lien that can be placed on a piece of property that is the subject of the underlying litigation. One of my clients was always wanting me to slap a "lis pendens" on our opponent's property, until I told her that the property was not the actual subject of the litigation: his making off with her money was.
A Sexual Connotation
Well, why not? Most of us spend a good deal of time thinking about sexual matters and coming up with terminology that cannot be repeated here to express our thinking, so why not get some elevated words to describe some sexual things. Both men and women have things that tend to "pend" as time goes on. Actually, medical doctors use the term pendulous (i.e., sagging) breasts in a non-sexual way (i.e., non erotic-way) to describe a situation that many women want to correct. Internet sites galore offer breast reduction for pendulous breasts, while other sites, with far more interest in erotic themes, don't consider pendulous breasts a disadvantage or limiting condition at all.
One can turn the tables on the men with a factitious term derived form pend. A relatively vulgar term, but known to every male or female over 21, is "hung"--to describe a well-endowed man. Why not elevate the language a bit by bringing our knowledge of things pendulous to bear on the subject and invent a word as an adjective, such as pendulate. There is actually a verb pendulate attested in the OED which means "to dangle, sway to and frow, swing like a pendulum." But verbs can esily be made into adjectives, sometimes, as here, by not even changing a letter. Therefore a pendulate guy is, you guessed it, quite well endowed (isn't the term more visual and more descriptive than 'well-endowed' or 'hung'?) but it emphasizes a swaying motion of the organ. Indeed, if a person is very well endowed, we might add the prefix per to the word which, as we have seen, connotes the idea of "very" or "fully." Thus, if we were to write erotic literature, we might want to describe our hero as a "perpendulate stud." I am sure that no one will either have trouble visualizing what is meant or will forget the word that I have introduced.
But pendulate has its more "secular" significance as a synonym to "oscillate," "vacillate," "fluctuate," or "undulate." It can describe the mind as it wavers from one position to the next or the will as it is first inclined in one direction and then the next. Because the visual image is of the pendulum in a clock that regularly swings from side to side, it can helpfully characterize our inability to make up our mind.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long