Kingdom of Perissology

Today is a happy day, I learned a new word. I was reading an old entry in  “El Interpretador” and the word “parresia” sent me running for the DRAE (something that doesn’t happen every day unless I want to make sure how to conjugate a verb…):


(Del lat. parrhesĭa).

1. f. Ret. Figura que consiste en aparentar que se habla audaz y libremente al decir cosas, ofensivas al parecer, y en realidad gratas o halagüeñas para aquel a quien se le dicen.

Aha… Now, even though it comes from the Spanish Royal Academy and is supposed to be impartial, that’s a loaded cultural interpretation of the word. Quite accurate; we can be like that when talking to others. Furthermore, it works both ways…

Of course, being a Latin word I was certain there would be an English equivalent. Indeed, the word is actually spelled like in Latin: “Parrhesia.” Merriam-Webster has this entry for it:

Main Entry: par·rhe·sia 

Pronunciation: parzh()

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): -s

Etymology: Medieval Latin, from Greek parrhsia, from para- 1para- + -rhsia (from rhsis speech, speaking); akin to Greek eirein to say — more at WORD

: boldness or freedom of speech

Well, that’s quite different from the Spanish interpretation… Even though we may think talking with double meaning is akin to “boldness” or “freedom of speech”, it isn’t really the case.

From there I started to concatenate ideas. After those two entries, Google gave me this under “parrhesia”, courtesy of silva rhetoricae, Dr.Gideon Burton’s site at the Brigham Young University.

Either to speak candidly or to ask forgiveness for so speaking. Sometimes considered a vice.


Jesus used parrhesia in response to the Pharisees:

The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, “Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.” And he said unto them, “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” —Luke 13:31-32

Hmmm, talk about twists of interpretation… That entry also had a Related Figures link to the word “perissologia”, which is the original Latin spelling of the English “perissology”:

In general, the fault of wordiness. More specifically, periphrasis, circumlocution, synonymia, accumulatio, or amplification carried to a fault by length or overelaborateness.


M-W has this:

Main Entry: per·is·sol·o·gy 

Pronunciation: persälj

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): -es

Etymology: Late Latin perissologia, from Greek, from perissologos speaking too much (from perissos + logos speech) + -ia -y — more at LEGEND

archaic : superfluity of words : PLEONASM

Oh my… Happy as a dog with two tails from having learnt something new, I went hunting for something where I could apply those words, specially “perissology”. Not so far, only a link away in Google News, I found this:

Concord Monitor Online Article – Bush: We’re in battle of the century – Your News Source – 03301

President Bush began a new effort yesterday to shore up flagging support for the war in Iraq, telling a veterans group that the fight against terrorism was no mere military conflict but “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.” 

The president responded to those – including some Republican allies in Congress – who have questioned whether the sectarian violence in Iraq has grown into civil war, casting doubts on the U.S. role there. “Our commanders and our diplomats on the ground in Iraq believe that it’s not the case,”Bush said. “They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country.”

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