Thursday, November 3, 2016

Word of the day: sympathist

I know what prompted me to choose the word sympathist to describe my regard for the Chicago Cubs: the ways in which the word sympathizer has long been associated with hateful and fanatic causes.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sympathist thusly: “One who sympathizes, a sympathizer.” And sympathizer : “One who or that which sympathizes; esp. one disposed to agree with or approve a party, cause, etc.; a backer-up.” So one can sympathize without being a sympathizer.

What makes me happy about having chosen sympathist : as I now know, the OED traces the word to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The full Coleridge sentence that the OED abbreviates:

The knowledge, — the unthought of consciousness, — the sensation of human auditors — of flesh and blood sympathists — acts as a support and a stimulation a tergo, while the front of the mind, the whole consciousness of the speaker, is filled, yea, absorbed by the apparition.
What makes me happier still — take note, Stefan Hagemann — is that Coleridge is writing about Hamlet .

[A tergo : Latin, “from behind.”]

comments: 2

Stefan said...

I love the fact that much of what Coleridge said about Hamlet seems still to hold up, and your post inspired me, though readers will have to decide for themselves whether it's the good kind of inspiration:

In Wrigleyville did Old Bill Veeck
An ivied outfield wall decree
Where Clark the dirty blvd. ran
Athwart taverns measureless to man
Filled with brawn and hyperbole.

That's about as far as I'm likely to get. No wonder STC never really finished that poem.

Michael Leddy said...

“Taverns” for “caverns” is esp. neat. I would say to keep going. Don’t answer the door!