Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Archive for September, 2014

Revanchism or Irredentism?

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Mr. Simple recently dropped this line after reading revanche: “The Good Word for 9 September 2014 was revanche.  Considering its definition, would irredentism (a word of Italian etymology) be an apposite synonym or not?  If not, why?”

These two words are near synonyms. Revanchism refers to the desire to regain territory lost to a neighbor or that has gained independence regardless of ethnic or cultural consideration. Ukraine is culturally distinct from Russia today, and only historically ethnically related.

Irredentism (or irridentism) is the uniting of territories culturally or ethnically related to its/their “mother” culture or ethinc nation.  An irredentist attack could aggrandize one territory or several areas culturally or ethnically connected to the attacking nation.  It was originally an Italian political term (1879), referring to a party which advocated the recovery and union with Italy of all Italian-speaking districts subject to other countries.

So while the meanings of the two words overlap, but I wouldn’t say they were synonymous.

Refulgent: a Shiny Old Word

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

ree-fUl-jênt • Hear it! •  Adjective

Meaning: Shining brightly, resplendent, illustrious.

Notes: This Good Word is a shining example of a word with a happy and supportive lexical family. The noun may be refulgence orrefulgency; however, if these do not please you, refulgentness is also available. The only choice for an adverb is refulgently.

In Play: In July of 1838 a young radical by the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the seniors of Harvard Divinity School, saying, “In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers.” Literal or figurative shining may be conveyed by today’s word: “Fred’s face was refulgent at hearing about his promotion as he emerged from the boss’s office.”

Word History: Today’s Good Word is the stem of Latin refulgen(t)s, the present participle of refulgere “to flash, reflect”, made up of re- “back” + fulgere “to flash”. Fulgere contains the same root we find in Russian belyi “white”, which underlies the name of the white whale, thebeluga, also the name of the sturgeon that produces probably the best caviar in the world. When the vowel and the L switched places (liquid metathesis), the same root went on to become English blue and German Blitz “flash”, as in the quick war known as a Blitzkrieg “flash war.” (Today we owe a word of gratitude to the refulgent mind of Brian Gockley, the voice of our podcasts, for suggesting this shining lexical item.)