A Quick Vocabulary Word Review Inspired by my lack of literary education and Wendell Berry

So if you were hoping this was going to be something witty go ahead and move on. This is nothing but some words and definitions.  The only thing special about these words is that they happen to be in the first 80 pages of Wendell Berry’s The Art of the Commonplace which we are reading in the Liturgy of Life reading group.  And I happen to not know what they mean. At least you know that I am not too proud to share my ignorance of the English language with you (though you probably already gathered that by my willingness to publish my posts with all sorts of grammatical errors.  I’m looking for an editor if anyone is interested, as long as you are willing to work for free).


My husband often talks of one of his favorite song writers Adam Carroll who kept a post-it note on the back of every book he read and would jot down words he didn’t know. At some point he would look them up and the words gradually made their way into his vocabulary and songs.


I’ve never had much motivation to do that sort of thing. But now that I am reading this book along with many of you and trying to write some reflections on it, I figured I should actually try to figure out what it is saying.  And since I was going to do this for myself it occurred to me that that some of you may not know what these words mean either (though I’m sure most of you know far more than I do) so I thought I’d share the definitions.  Nothing fancy, a bit like a junior high homework assignment, but here it goes.


antithetical: directly opposed or contrasted; mutually incompatible.


despotism: the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way.


obsolescent: becoming obsolete.


avarice: extreme greed for wealth or material gain.


inveigh: speak or write about (something) with great hostility


fracas: a noisy disturbance or quarrel.


palimpsest: is a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book, from which the text has been either scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused, for another document.


syllogism: an instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn (whether validly or not) from two given or assumed propositions (premises), each of which shares a term with the conclusion, and shares a common or middle term not present in the conclusion (e.g., all dogs are animals; all animals have four legs; therefore all dogs have four legs ).


espousal: an act of adopting or supporting a cause, belief, or way of life.


antipathy: a deep-seated feeling of dislike; aversion.


opprobrium: harsh criticism or censure. or the public disgrace arising from someone’s shameful conduct.


abet: encourage or assist (someone) to do something wrong, in particular, to commit a crime or other offense.


shibboleth:  a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.


Happy reading!
To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.



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