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CONCEIT

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CONCEIT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:27 pm

• conceit •



Pronunciation: kên-seetHear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Mass noun) Extreme egotism, excessive and vain pride in oneself. 2. (Count noun) A fanciful or outlandish notion or idea. 3. In literature, an unusually creative twist, a bit of unexpected imagery or metaphor.

Notes: Centuries ago today's good word had the same meanings as concept and conception; all three were derived from the verb conceive. However, as meanings changed over the years, English assigned different meanings to these three nouns despite their common origin. In the sense of "egotism", conceit is a mass noun that has no plural. In the sense of "fanciful notion", it can be pluralized, as a novel that relies on its conceits more than its plot.

In Play: Let's focus on the second meaning of today's Good Word since it tends to be overlooked: "Inga Smorgasbord based all her candlelight dinners on the conceit that food was enjoyed more at a table inundated in redolent flowers." In his poem, "The Flea", John Donne uses a flea as a conceit for a metaphorical marriage with the object of his affection when the flea sucks and mingles blood from the both of them. The conceit is deepened when he suggests that killing the flea would now be suicide. This is not an ordinary metaphor but a highly creative, unexpected, and fanciful one.

Word History: Even in Middle English, today's Good Word meant "mind, concept". It was then conceite, an Anglo-Norman reduction of Late Latin conceptus, the past participle of concipere "to grasp, conceive". This verb was made up of the intensive prefix com- + capere "to take", the source of English words like capture, captive, and captivate. The root of capere came from Proto-Indo-European kap- "grab, grasp", which reached Old Germanic as habai- "get, have" and continued to German as haben and to English as have, both with the same meanings.
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Re: CONCEIT

Postby MTC » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:00 am

Dr. G conflates the second and third senses of "conceit" in his examples: "Let's focus on the second meaning of today's Good Word since it tends to be overlooked: "Inga Smorgasbord based all her candlelight dinners on the conceit that food was enjoyed more at a table inundated in redolent flowers." (So far so good) In his poem, "The Flea", John Donne uses a flea as a conceit..." "The Flea," however, is an example of the third sense of conceit, another word for an extended metaphor. The Metaphysical Poets were famous for these contrivances. In an elaborate conceit in another poem, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," Donne famously compares two lovers' souls to twin compasses.

But by calling attention to themselves conceipts or extended metaphors lose some of their power. It is the metaphors that creep in silently without notice that shape our thoughts and feelings more effectively. One authority has estimated there are "probably two or three metaphors for every ten words that we use." I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World by James Geary.

Metaphors can be quite misleading, especially in political rhetoric. Take "The Fiscal Cliff," for instance, a conceit for a round of automatic spending cuts and tax increases.
Is it really a "cliff," or as some have suggested a "slope" or a "speed bump?" (more metaphors) Are we really going to fall off a cliff to an economic death, (another metaphor) or is the cliff conceit just a scare tactic?

Some of these ideas are discussed in a Slate podcast:
(http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/ ... aphor.html)

Have you got your parachutes on? Do you know how to land without breaking an ankle or suffering financial loss?
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Re: CONCEIT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:58 pm

Excellent site, thanks.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: CONCEIT

Postby gailr » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:15 pm

I used to know a manager who repeatedly informed meetings that he was making a conceited effort instead of a concerted effort. That malaprop always cheered me up more than I can say. :D
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