This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Saturday Rave: Sir Thomas Browne's friends.

Thomas Browne was a doctor who lived in Norwich. He was also a man of the widest possible curiosity, full of interest in science and nature, and in every possible means of learning more about both.

Because he was born in 1606 and died in 1682 these interests included various subjects no longer respectable, such as alchemy, astronomy, and witchcraft. The fact that his most famous work is called Religio Medici, Religion of a Doctor, gives some idea of his free-ranging mind.

Browne wrote widely about...well, about what interested him, which was more or less everything. But he was perhaps above all fascinated by the act of being interested.

I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion [he said], or be angry with his judgement for not agreeing with me in that, from which perhaps within a few days I should dissent myself.

(He also said Obstinacy in a bad cause is but constancy in a good, but where that leaves us I do not know.)

Browne's stuff isn't easy to read. The OED attributes to him 775 new words (among them electricity, prairie, coma, locomotion, carnivorous and cryptography) and 1596 new meanings for already established ones. He assumes a wide knowledge of the classics and the Bible.

And then there's that other quotation, death is the cure for all diseases. So he's not much of a one for happy endings.

But still there's that mind, unafraid and undaunted and getting into everything.

Not easy, no. Not predictable.

But certainly one hell of a ride.

Word To Use Today: one of Sir Thomas Browne's new ones. How about coma, which comes from the Greek word kōma, which means heavy sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment