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.
Getting to Perpotation, Perperous, and Perperacute
I think I will descend from the lofty realms explored in the previous essay, and return to more mundane reality. There is nothing that helps us do that more than perpotation. We can see the word "pot" buried in the middle of the word, and we all know the more familiar words of "potable" or "potation," suggesting something to do with drinking. Usually when a person uses the word "potable" in our culture, it is a grim-faced someone asking for money because he or she is lamenting the fact that some tribal group somewhere in Melanasia or South American lacks drinkable water. But the addition of per at the beginning of the word gives the sense of completeness or thoroughness, and perpotation actually means a "protracted drinking bout" or "thorough drunkenness." To use the elegant language of fratspeak it means that after a perpotation you are totally housed or sloshed or shitfaced or wasted.
Perpotation is not attested in anyone's prose, as far as I can tell. It differs from symposium, the Greek word for drinking party--which we have "secularized" to suggest a kind of lecture or presentation (which often is the opposite of the fun involved in a real symposium)-- by suggesting not the fun of the party but the damage of the result. For example, Cicero uses the Latin term when he describes "intemperantissimas perpotationes" (Say that five times before breakfast and you will not make a pronunciation mistake the rest of the day!).
But I think the word still has life, even though no one knows that it still lives even in its negative sense. Why not speak about perpotations of the human spirit when we refer to the deep human craving for knowledge or love or understanding? Indeed, we talk about a "thirst" for knowledge, or someone who took in deep draughts of information, but isn't the term "thirst" a bit overused? To make perpotation a verb, one might say: "I perpoted daily from the wisdom of the Desert Fathers." Or, we can retain the negative sense of the word, to refer back to the frat guys whose perpotations made them ueless in most human interactions for several days, by referring to the perpoted guys. I would actually prefer the spelling perpotted in this instance, so that the picture created would be of drunk guys who are as alert as the potted plants that adorn every public building in America.
Now that we are fully back on earth, I wanted to pause a moment on this most unusual, but immediately understandable, word. Perperacute means "intensely or excessively acute." But, isn't one per enough? We also have the word peracute in English, used mostly in medical contexts, to mean "severe or attended with much inflammation." A helpful distinction among various kinds of pains is in a 1970 quotation: "The word subacute is used to describe a condition between acute and chronic while a disease which kills very quickly...is called peracute." It is derived from the Latin peracutus, which is not limited to medical realities; i.e., it can describe a very shrill sound, sharp and intense feelings or someone who is intellectually very shrewd. I guess I am grateful to the medical profession for keeping the word alive, even though it suggest a condition that will kill you, but now that they have done so, let's thank them and then use it in general humanistic conversation by recapturing the Lating usage. Don't you agree? Thus, we might have a peracute sound or student or feeling.
But what do we do with perperacute? Are we to assume that it was invented by a stutterer who meant nothing else by it than peracute? It is fortunate that the first attestation of peracute comes a few hundred years before perperacute. Wouldn't it be the height of irony if that were reversed? But I think we still can find some use for perperacute today. Don't we all have friends who, to emphasize a point, add a few more "very's" or "really's" before the idea they are describing? "That band was really really really wonderful." "My mother is very very nice." So, let's just use perperacute when we are trying to describe the most intense of feelings or human longings. "His hope for her safe return was perperacute." Or, "the agony experienced at her parting was perperacute." I venture to say we have all sorts of people, with all sorts of feelings, that would find ample opportunities to use the word.
Finishing with Perperous
We don't have space here to go to perpendicular. That will have to wait. Perperous is an adjective, a potentially useful one, meaning "heedless, inconsiderate, erroneous." Its Latin root, perperus, with the related word perperitudo, also includes the idea of perversity or wrong-headedness. Thus it seems like a general purpose word to describe something or someone who has made a terribly bad decision or judgment or has treated someone inconsiderately. Perperitude is inconsiderateness. So, we could have the "perperous activity of youth," or "my perperous embrace of that philosophy that trapped me for years." Or, using it as an adverb, "I clung perperously to a doctrine which I should have long discarded." When used in this way it can combine, in one word, the notion of perversity and erroneousness. Now, how useful is that?
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long