Saturday, March 07, 2009

Come Up Higher

Sometimes a blog comment deserves a post of its own. This one on the post just upstream from Allison Elaine:

Sanction: to ratify, approve
Sanction: to reprimand, penalize

Some Anglican churches have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to sanction their own actions and to sanction the actions of other Anglican churches. It is unclear if he will do so.

There! All recent Anglican history in one swell foop!

Brilliant (in the American sense, not the British one). Utterly brilliant.


Allison Elaine said...

Reverend Sir,

My goodness! This is an honor beyond any I have heretofore received. Thank you!


Father J said...

That is, without a doubt, perfect.

The Underground Pewster said...

Excellent job Allison Elaine!

John Lee said...

so please explain the difference between the British (would that also mean it is Anglican) definition of Brilliant in contrast to the American one.

I have a strong feeling that the British definition describes the goings on in the church whereas the American definition defines that single sentence post. :D

Dan Martins said...

To my knowledge, there are no ecclesiastical implications to the divergence in the usage of "brilliant." Of course, the literal meaning in both countries has to do with "brightness" or "shining." In America--and this is perhaps semi-slang, but well-established--it can denote intelligence, unusual perceptivity, or an idea emanating from those qualities, as in "She's brilliant; what a brilliant idea!" In Britain, as I have observed both from being there and from watching British TV shows, "brilliant" is an all-purpose adjective denoting a positive assessment, not necessarily having to do with intelligence or perception, as in "Football is brilliant" (meaning, "I really like football") and the like. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Dan,
I have, in my profession, done assessments on a few folks who are truly brilliant. The best measure of intelligence is vocabulary. The best measure of vocabulary is how it is used. Brilliant folks are parsimonious, with an economy of expression. I remember a splendid movie review of "Remains of the Day". "A story of unshakable repression." Dcn Dale

Nathan J.A. Humphrey said...

That's funny...I was just musing on the double meaning of "sanction" in just this context the other day. I've been meaning to look up the word's history. Any insights ("brilliant" or otherwise)?

Anonymous said...


Word History: Occasionally, a word can have contradictory meanings. Such a case is represented by sanction, which can mean both "to allow, encourage" and "to punish so as to deter." It is a borrowing from the Latin word sānctiō, meaning "a law or decree that is sacred or inviolable." In English, the word is first recorded in the mid-1500s in the meaning "law, decree," but not long after, in about 1635, it refers to "the penalty enacted to cause one to obey a law or decree." Thus from the beginning two fundamental notions of law were wrapped up in it: law as something that permits or approves and law that forbids by punishing. From the noun, a verb sanction was created in the 18th century meaning "to allow by law," but it wasn't until the second half of the 20th century that it began to mean "to punish (for breaking a law)." English has a few other words that can refer to opposites, such as the verbs dust (meaning both "to remove dust from" and "to put dust on") and trim (meaning both "to cut something away" and "to add something as an ornament").

jmoss said...

Sorry to come in late, but for all of you lovers of the language, and from this and the previous it is obvious all of you indeed are, you cannot really be in the game without your very own personal copy of Fowler's. Hie thee hence to be sanctioned, or you might be.
Fowler, Henry; Winchester, Simon (introduction) (2003 reprint). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (Oxford Language Classics Series). Oxford Press. ISBN 0-19-860506-4.
John1, aka, John Moss