/ag-NAW-stik/. noun. One who maintains that an answer, often to the question of the existence of God, is impossible to know with certainty.
/ə-PAW-fə-sis/. noun. A rhetorical device in which one asserts something by saying they won’t bring it up. Apophasis can often be identified by phrases such as, “not to mention.”
agnotology / agnatology
agnotology / agnatology /ag-nə-TAHL-ə-jee/. noun. The study of cultural ignorance or doubt, particularly relating to scientific research and data. A recent coinage by Robert N. Proctor and Iain Boal combining Latin agnosia (ignorance) + ology (from Latin logy, the study of). See also misology (the fear or hatred of knowledge) and the earlier philosophical area of agnoiology. Thanks, Reader S.
“We need a political agnatology to complement our political epistemologies.” (Robert N. Proctor)
“Agnotology serves as a counterweight to traditional concerns for epistemology, refocusing questions about ”how we know“ to include questions about what we do not know, and why not. Ignorance is often not merely the absence of knowledge but an outcome of cultural and political struggle.” (Londa Schiebinger)
“Another element of agnotology consists in contending that the dismissal of science is supported by public opinion because people have a poor level of education and training.” (ed. Matthias Gross, Linsey McGoey)
agelast /A-jə-last/. noun. One who never laughs; a humorless person. A borrowing from Rabelais’ Middle French agelaste, from Greek agélastos (not laughing).
acedia /ə-SEE-dee-ə/. noun. Listlessness, torpor, deep malaise, a distaste for the obligations of life or religious practice, the sin of sloth. As Thomas Aquinas put it, a “sorrow of the world.” See also: weltschmerz. From Greek akēdeia (negligence, apathy)
aftermath /af-tər-math/. noun. Today’s WORD is familiar but its etymology may not be. Aftermath is derived from the Old English math (a mowing, a crop), which combines mow and the suffix -th (a suffix that forms nouns from verbs denoting a process or action) in the same way as the commonplace grow + thdoes. So aftermath is literally a “second mowing,” which has come to more generally mean consequences or conditions arising from an event, most often an unpleasant one.
“…the certainty and authority that I heard reminded me of the plain, less-than-enthusiastic report of a documentary, which is the tone of voice of those undoubting parts of the Bible. ¶ ‘I NEVER HEAR THE EXPLOSION. WHAT I HEAR IS THE AFTERMATH OF AN EXPLOSION. THERE IS A RINGING IN MY EARS, AND THOSE HIGH-PITCHED POPPING AND TICKING SOUNDS THAT A HOT ENGINE MAKES AFTER YOU SHUT IT OFF; AND PIECES OF THE SKY ARE FALLING, AND BITS OF WHITE-MAYBE PAPER, MAYBE PLASTER-ARE FLOATING DOWN LIKE SNOW. THERE ARE SILVERY SPARKLES IN THE AIR, TOO-MAYBE IT’S SHATTERED GLASS. THERE’S SMOKE, AND THE STINK OF BURNING; THERE’S NO FLAME, BUT EVERYTHING IS SMOLDERING.’” (John Irving)
“…And ‘Do not go’ cry the dandelions, from their heads of folly / And ‘Do not go’ cry the yard cinders, who have no future, only their infernal aftermath / And ‘Do not go’ cries the cracked trough by the gate, fatalist of starlight and zero // ‘Stay’ says the arrangement of stars…” (Ted Hughes)
“Sometimes reporters will speak of wanting to spend the night at Puerta del Diablo, in order to document the actual execution, but at the time I was in Salvador no one had. ¶ The aftermath, the daylight aspect, is well documented.” (Joan Didion)
“The following day, they travelled on into Germany. It was not like seeing a fallen knight or the corpse of a monstrous wolf. It wasn’t even the way Edie had imagined it, with burned-out tanks and beaten, thankful people. ¶ It was like the aftermath of bad surgery, or a pit fight in Calcutta.” (Nick Harkaway)
“I once, on a third date, found myself with one of those annoying isolated jumping muscles or twitches in my scalp which seized on and off throughout the evening and, on the ottoman, made it appear that I was raising and lowering one eyebrow in a rapid and lascivious way, which in the psychically charged aftermath of the sudden proposal simply torpedoed the whole thing.” (David Foster Wallace)
aperçu /a-per-SYOO/. noun. A summary. A revelatory glimpse. An intuitive, immediate insight. A borrowing from French; past participle of apercevoir (to perceive).
“Although the letters are full of shrewd observations and crisply formulated images, Van Gogh was no coiner of the aperçu. The expressive force of his prose lies more in the accumulation of arguments…” (Ronald de Leeww)
“Inside the front cover, above his name and the date inscribed in blue ink, was a single penciled notation in his 1949 script, a freshman aperçu that read, ‘Metaphysical poets pass easily from trivial to sublime.’” (Philip Roth)
“If you go to a classic definition you know what a true classic is, and similarly a ‘true romantic.’ But if you go to both, you have an algebraic formula, x = x, a cancellation, an aperçu, and hence satisfying…” (Charles Ives)
“I had not the heart to tell her that my Big Book on Bonnard—it sounds like something one might shy coconuts at—has got no farther than half of a putative first chapter and a notebook filled with derivative and half-baked would-be aperçus.” (John Banville)
“…modern theorists—whatever their grander aims may be—are almost always more revealing and stimulating in their speculations, aperçus, and theories about laughter than in any overarching theory of laughter.” (Mary Beard)
“…careful aperçus about tennis bums and failed fashion models and Greek shipping heiresses, one of whom taught me a significant lesson (a lesson I could have learned from E Scott Fitzgerald, but perhaps we all must meet the very rich for ourselves) by asking, when I arrived to interview her in her orchid-filled sitting room on the second day of a paralyzing New York blizzard, whether it was snowing outside.” (Joan Didion)
“He’s thinking in an abstract absent way about limits and rituals, listening to Blott give Beak his aperçu. Like as in is there a clear line, a quantifiable difference between need and just strong desire.” (David Foster Wallace)
“He told Brad Morrow at Conjunctions that he spent his days in his black room, writing ‘weird little 1-pagers.’ Some were about ‘the spiritual emptiness of heterosexual interaction in post-modern America,’ as he would phrase it in a later interview, others almost metaphysical aperçus about the hazy intersection of cognition and the world, vignettes he grouped together under the heading ‘Another instance of the Porousness of Certain Borders.’” (D.T. Max)
“I am tired of the labor, the endlessness, of my chemical book! Perhaps I should stick to little narratives and essays, feuilletons, footnotes, asides, aperçus…” (Oliver Sacks)
“…I observed to my husband last month that of all forms of theft, kleptomania was the one plagiarism most closely resembled. Unfortunately, I later discovered that this brilliant aperçu had already been apperceived by at least four other writers.” (Anne Fadiman)
“Do you see what struck me? The incessant harping on the conviction that the aperçus in which ‘life’ seemed most piercingly summarised (e.g. ‘On the wall of the kitchen there was a shadow, shaped like a little mask with two gold slits for eyes. It danced up and down’) put on her not only an artistic obligation to record them, but a moral obligation to ‘live up to’ them.” (Philip Larkin)
“The same review praised the book’s brevity and confessed—this from Aldie Cannon, Pantagruelian consumer of cultural produce—that some days he just didn’t want to read one more book, see one more movie, go to one more art show, look up one more reference, wrap up one more paragraph with one more fork-tongued aperçu.” (John Updike)