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Lustrum

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Lustrum

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:47 pm

• lustrum •


Pronunciation: lê-strêm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A ceremony to purify all the Roman people conducted every five years after the census had been taken; the census itself. 2. A period of four or five years, hence a collegiate lustrum.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes from a rather odd Latin word, but it brought with it an adjective, lustral "quinquennial, occurring every (four or) five years". It also brought along its Latin plural, lustra, which is now optional—these days we are permitted to use lustrums. If you are thinking it must be related to luster (British lustre), you are right for reasons we will get into in the Word History.

In Play: Lustrum usually refers to period of five years (a quarter score of them): "After a lustrum in New York, Ginger Schnapps decided she didn't like it there and returned to Germany." However, since college years are grouped into approximately that number, it is used to refer to the (usually) four years of matriculation there: "Ray Scane dropped out of PU in the middle of his lustrum there."

Word History: Today's Good Word ran off its semantic rails on its way to English. It started out in Latin meaning "washed", and from there moved on to "purified". Purificatory ceremonies often involved ablutions, the washing of some part of the body: feet, head, hands. It was the past participle of the verb luere "to wash, cleanse, purge", a verb that merged with lavare "to wash" later on in Latin. Lustrum remained only as a name of the purificatory ceremony, which went on to become what it means today. A new verb was then created from lustrum: lustrare "to purify", which came to mean "brighten, make lustrous". This is how the Latin word came to English, via French lustre, as luster. By the way, the same PIE word may be found in Lucifer. Lucifer was originally the light-bearer, from Latin lux (luc-s) "light, illumination" + fer- "to bear, carry"; the word originally referred to the Morning Star. (We cannot delay a lustrum of anything to extend our gratitude to Timothy Knox for supplying us with today's very Good Word.)
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Re: Lustrum

Postby sardith » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:54 am

The first time I ever heard the word, 'lustrum', was while watching the movie, "Rooster Cogburn". In the scene that sets up the plot, the Judge tells John Wayne's character, "You have been in the service of this court for almost two lustrums. You're a strong man, and you're a brave man, Rooster, and you have, at times, executed your duties faithfully and well. But all too often, you have acted with excessive zeal . . .It seems you cannot serve the papers of this court and effect arrests without breaking heads and spraying bullets about! The West is changing, and you haven't changed WITH it! I want your badge. . .You've let yourself go, Rooster. Look at yer belly, you can't even close your coat over it. You drink too much. . .you've gone to seed, Rooster, gone to seed."

This berating came from John McIntire, the craggy-faced character actor, probably in his seventies at the time, who delivered a harangue worthy of the classic old West.

While my husband was busy watching Rooster and the outlaw chase, I just HAD to stop and look up that word 'lustrum'.

But I'll bet I won't forget it any time soon.
Sardith :mrgreen:
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
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Re: Lustrum

Postby MTC » Wed Jun 26, 2013 7:21 am

And after your "illustration," I won't either, Sardith.

Many things lose their luster in a lustrum according to the Latin maxim, "Multa amittunt illustrat in lustrum."

from the Apocrypha of MTC
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Re: Lustrum

Postby sardith » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:22 pm

That does it, I really AM going to have to learn to understand Latin.

Sardith :mrgreen:
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
~Mark Twain, [pen name for Samuel Clemens], American author and humorist, (1835-1910)~
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:36 pm

That may or may not help. Sorry.
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:01 pm

MTC: You transliterated instead of tranlating, probably by design. Lustrum in Latin does not always translate to lustrum in English. In Latin it means a marsh or swamp. Do you see how I got out of that one without spoiling MTC's post?
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Slava » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:54 pm

I must say I'm glad that illustrate does not seem to be related to lustrum, odd though that may be. They look similar, but aren't quite relatives.

After all, clean or not. who wants their illustrations to have anything to do with their lavatory?
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Re: Lustrum

Postby call_copse » Fri Jun 28, 2013 6:30 am

For this entry I might have included the name of the ceremony 'lustratio' (hence a lustrum between lustrations), which was intended to cleanse newborn children of harmful spirits. The ceremony was inherited from the Greeks and extended to cleansing cities every 5 years.

The ceremony might also be used to spiritually cleanse a battlefield e.g. Athens was reputedly so cleansed by Epimenides of Crete, after the Cylonian massacre. That would be the Epimenides who coined the paradox 'All Cretans are liars'.
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:56 pm

Which in the NT can also be translated "Cretans are always lying," thus posing the dilemma. If I say to you, "i am lieing," is that true or false?

With my Baptist background, I can't help but wonder the correlation of ideas, not words, here with baptisms of various sorts. Qumran had numerous pools which most scholars think were related to ritual lustrations of one sort or another.
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Slava » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:56 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:If I say to you, "i am lieing," is that true or false?

No matter which you choose, it's not English. :D
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Re: Lustrum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:29 pm

I spelled it that way to avoid the rejoinder that it could be verified by simply looking at me.
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