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.
More On "Per" and "Pen"
Concluding the Introduction
A third verb, closely related alphabetically and in definition to perviate is pervade. The Latin verb vadere, which means to "advance, proceed or go especially with rapid, violent or purposeful movement" (definition from the Oxford Latin Dictionary), when combined with the per suggests, in English, the action of diffusing, permeating, saturating. In contrast to the previous two words, where beating or drilling was stressed, (though pervious has a diffusing connotation), pervade seems to be compatible with or suggests a more gentle and complete penetration of a surface, an idea, etc. Ideas pervade the university; Vishnu is called the Divine Pervader in Hindu mythology; we speak easily and freely of a pervading atmosphere of gloom or happiness. Perhaps the more usual way of saying the last idea is by using the word pervasive. "She was gripped with a a kind of pervasive despair, a sadness so deep that she could neither work nor sleep." The action of pervading can be referred to as pervadence, as in the sentence, "A pervadence of the world both universal and complete," but I prefer pervasion to describe this action.
Though pervade is in my judgment used more often in English speech than permeate, permeate gives birth to far more words in English. The Latin verb "eo" (I go) lies behind the word, so that permeate means to go through or, according to the OED, "to pass, spread, or diffuse itself through; to penetrate, pervade, saturate." At least ten English words are formed off the verb, ranging from the familiar and oft-used permeable, to describe something capable of being passed through, and permeability, the quality or capability of being passed through to the more obscure permeator, meaning the one who permeates or infiltrates, permeation, suggesting the act of permeating and, my favorite, permeative, accent on the antepenult, to mean "having the quality of permeating." "The permeative insistence of the child's question as to why God permitted bad things to happen to the family could be ignored no longer." Or, "His genius was of the quiet permeative type rather than the showy, outspoken type."
We are on a roll now with things that go through other things, but here we have a different word-formation. Actually the picture suggested by penetrate is as or more powerful than the preceding. The Penates, as most people know, were the family gods of a Roman household, and the preposition penes suggests "under the physical control of, in the possession or charge of, at the house of..." Penitus is a Latin adverb meaning "from far within, from deep down, from a remote source (no English equivalent)." Therefore, penetrate it is an "inward" word, a word that focuses on what is inside. The penetrale (in Latin) is the inner part or innermost part of a building. This word has been taken over into English as penetral or, plural, penetralia. The latter is defined by the OED as "the innermost parts or recesses of a building; especially of a temple." The verb penetrate therefore suggests a going into the most innermost parts of something. It not only refers in the Latin to physical action, such as the entry into the sanctuary, but also the action of grasping something deeply with the intellect.
But penetrate has fallen on hard times, I think, in most educated discourse because of unspoken fears that the word is too "masculine" or too suggestive of the male thrusting in sex and therefore offensive to feminists, either male or female. I actually avoided the word for a long time because of this reason. But, on further reflection, I think it ought to return, sort of with what Paul Ricouer calls a "second naivete." When he used that term he was referring to the rediscovery of religious faith after you know not only that the Bible is full of riddles/contradictions, etc. but that your own life has been so upended that "simple faith" is no longer possible.
Thus, let's have a "second naivete" with penetrate. Sure it can be used by all the macho football guys who talk about the penetration of the fullback into the secondary, etc., but it is too rich and visual (and non sexual as well as sexual) a word to be abandoned to the jocks. Let's refer to someone who is able to understand the innermost realities of something a person with a penetrating intellect. Let us keep its basic meaning as "to make or find one's way into the interior of...usually implying force or effort" not simply to capture the world of sex but also the effort of all, male and female alike, to enter deeply into the phenomena of life, to seek out the "holy of holies" of all things in our unquenchable search for understanding and love.
I really should quit now that I am ahead, but I promised this word in the last essay and will finish this essay with it. To perforate means to "bore through," or "to make a hole or holes right through." This word has stayed closest to the Latin and is taken up by the medical profession, though I seemingly have distinct memories from youth about perforated paper and, from my philatelist days, regarding perforated (hence worthless) stamps. But the word perforated has a wonderful diversity of fields where it can be used, from heraldry ("He beareth Or, a Bend Ermine Perforated thro' a Chevron Gules"--don't you love it?), natural history, to mean having translucent dots, and even conchology, to apply to a spirally wound shell of which the center is hollow instead of solid. I think it has potential for humanistic usage, possibly to describe a distraught person as having a perforated spirit or heart.
I really am basically a happy person, despite my illustrative examples from human despair...
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long