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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:27 pm

• temperate •

Pronunciation: tem-pêr-êt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Mild, moderate, not extreme in any sense, as a temperate climate or a temperate demeanor. 2. Exercising restraint, as temperate in one's eating or drinking.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an adjective based on the noun temper, itself referring to an extreme lack of restraint. So how did that happen? The original meaning of temper, which it still retains, is "the state of the emotions", so people may be of a mild, sociable or irritable temper. The verb temper also has a neutral sense, roughly, "to bring to an ideal state", so that "to temper clay with water" means to soften it, while tempering steel strengthens it. The noun is, of course, temperance, the name of the movement to reduce or eliminate alcoholic beverages around the world, the so-called 'Temperance Movement'.

In Play: Our Greek cultural ancestors taught us temperance and moderation in all (the Golden Mean): "If Jack Potts were as temperate in his gambling habits as he is in his work habits, he could live a more happily balanced life." I tend to be more temperate in temperate weather but my temper tends to rise with the temperature.

Word History: Temperate comes to us from Latin temperatus, the past participle of temperare "to temper, to moderate". This verb is apparently derived from a variant of tempus (tempor- with suffixes) "time, season", though the semantic trail is not at all a clear one. There might be a connection between temp- and ten- "stretch", which gave us our thin and Russian tyanut' "to extend". To change the sound [n] to [m], however, would require a suffix [p], but there is no evidence that Latin contained such a suffix.
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Perry Lassiter
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Re: Temperate

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:12 pm

Aristotle's "Golden Mean" always implied to me there must be an excess here and there above and below the line, not a boring flatline of death...

George Kovac
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Re: Temperate

Postby George Kovac » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:13 am

Perry Lassiter wrote:

Aristotle's "Golden Mean" always implied to me there must be an excess here and there above and below the line, not a boring flatline of death...

Hear, hear! Thank you, Perry, for your wise and temperate observation.

Temperance and the golden mean should be understood as a dynamic goal, not a static one. Life does not allow a flatline even if we try, and our anxiety is misplaced when we feel that the center is where we ought to be all the time; that any swing from that golden mean represents catastrophe, failure or sin.

Keynes’ most famous quote (“In the long run we are all dead”) is often interpreted nihilistically, or to imply that life is just an inevitable regression toward the mean, or that it will all work itself out anyway, i.e., what Perry describes as “a boring flatline of death.” I think Keynes’ insight was richer, and he (like Aristotle) was talking positively and constructively about the excesses above and below the line. Here’s a fuller quotation of Keynes’ words:

But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again. John Maynard Keyes A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923, pp. 80-82)
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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