Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Word of the day: opusculum

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is opusculum, “a minor work (as of literature)”:

“Opusculum” — which is often used in its plural form “opuscula” — comes from Latin, where it serves as the diminutive form of the noun “opus,” meaning “work.” In English, “opus” can refer to any literary or artistic work, though it often specifically refers to a musical piece. Logically, then, “opusculum” refers to a short or minor work. (“Opusculum” isn't restricted to music, though. In fact, it is most often used for literary works.) The Latin plural of “opus” is “opera,” which gave us (via Italian) the word we know for a musical production consisting primarily of vocal pieces performed with orchestral accompaniment.
For readers of modern poetry, opusculum will recall Wallace Stevens’s poem “Study of Two Pears.” The poem begins with a Latin proclamation: “Opusculum paedagogum.” The poem’s pedagogue offers a little lesson about seeing things (namely, pears) as they really are: “The pears are not viols, / Nudes or bottles. / They resemble nothing else.” But the lesson falls apart, line by line by line. Why, for instance, mention viols, nudes, and bottles if pears resemble nothing but themselves? The pedagogue (who is not to be confused with Wallace Stevens) has lost control of the classroom.

What words stick in you head because of their literary associations?

Other words from works of literature
Apoplexy , avatar , bandbox , heifer , sanguine , sempiternal : Iridescent

comments: 1

Geo-B said...