asteism /ASTEE-izm/. noun. A backhanded compliment. Pleasant mockery; genteel, refined or polite irony or insult. Asteisms of the first sort include statements like “that dress makes you look so thin.” The second includes the work of many wits, such as Winston Churchill’s comment about Stafford Cripps that “he has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” From Greek asteismos (wit or witticism), from asteios (of a city, rather than the country).
agathist /A-gə-thist/. noun. One who believes things naturally tend toward the good. A systemic optimist. An adherent to the doctrine of agathism, a doctrine of optimism and a life devoted to the good. From Greek agath (good).
“From the agathist point of view, religion at its best is self-conscious, disciplined pursuit of knowledge of the good plus devotion to it. Such a life may or may not involve belief in a personal, transcendent God.” (Richard E. Creel)
“The existence of evil compels Dr. Miller to substitute the moderate title of ‘Agathist’ for that of ‘Optimist.’ Pawns, therefore, must fall, and bishops; but he will in part indemnify us by pointing out the reason.” (The Edinburgh Review)
Doctor Kearney, who formerly, with so much reputation, delivered lectures in this place on the history of Rome, observed to me once, that he was not an optimist, but an “agathist”; that he believed that everything tended to good, but did not think himself competent to determine what was absolutely thebest. The distinction is important, and seems to be fatal to the system of Optimism. (George Miller)
If the existence of pain and evil render it difficult for a reflecting man to be an optimist, there is no reason why he should not, at all events, be an agathist. It is an observation of Dr. Johnson, that as the greatest liar tells more truth than falsehood, so may it be said of the worst man, that he does more good than evil. (Horace Smnith)
aposematic /a-POH-sə-mat-ik/. adjective. Animal colorations that warn and repel potential predators. See also the noun form aposeme. From Greek apo- (off, away) + sēmat (sign).
“Short of instinctive programming to avoid the aposematic organism (which is seen occasionally), it is unlikely that any potential prey will be prepared to sacrificially educate its predator. Thus, a combination of camouflage and its antithesis, aposematism, often occur.” (World Heritage Encyclopedia)
“Red or yellow spots are common aposematic colors in frogs.” (John D. Lynch)
“These reproductive leviathans publicly aroused and engulfed each other, or overwhelmed the humans thrown into their path. The organs became more elaborate, more aposematic. They proliferated, reared and tumbled, sucked, slimed, and reproduced.” (Brian W. Aldiss)
“Jordana proposed an aposematic model of human evolution, where most of the human morphological and behavioral features that had been considered by Darwin as the result of sexual selection, via female choice, are explained by the aposematic (intimidating) display. Rather than sexual selection, the alternate concept is self-selection and rejection of the weak, as survival of the loudest.” (World Heritage Encyclopedia)
“A gigantic bird of prey was descending on him, its claws outstretched. Its aposematic wings were spread wide, as wide as the field itself. Looking up in shock, Hungaman saw how fanciful the wings were, fretted at the edges, iridescent, bright as a butterfly’s wings and as gentle.” (Brian W. Aldiss)
pawky /PAW-kee/. adjective. Shrewd, cunning, canny. In Scottish dialect: haughty, insolent. From northern English dialect pawk (trick).
“She was at her triturations. Spooning to death in a salver a speckled slug, marked like an ocelot, viscous and sticky. A whitish paste. Crooning a low threnody to her pawky trade.” (Cormac McCarthy)
“Though he is not known as a satirist, his Blood Meridian, about a ruthless band of bounty hunters looking for Indian scalps in Texas in the 1850s, can be read at least in part as a bloody pasquinade on the heroic literature of westward expansion. A pawky gallows humor is a reliable if underappreciated element in much of McCarthy’s work…” (Michael Chabon, from Maps and Legends)
“In this milieu, you suddenly see the urgent meaning of that phrase about everybody needing a good laugh. The Algonquin Round Table could never have been so remorselessly pawky.” (Martin Amis)
“He went on in his pawky way trying to make clear to her his mystical faith in these men who went ragged and hungry because they had chosen once for all between what he called in all seriousness their souls, and this world.” (Katherine Anne Porter)
“It was in such situations that Neil had most admired Munro’s tact. He had often been slyly amused to see with what a pawky and yet tender cunning he appeased her feminine tantrums.” (W. Somerset Maugham, from “Neil MacAdam”)
“At the back of the auditorium a man walks out. Professor McGovern, uniquely, in Toby’s experience of her, seems completely frozen, uncertain as to what to do next. J J is trying to appear amused as if in the hope that this will yet prove to be a jest, some pawky piece of academic humour.” (Julian Barnes, from Cannonbridge)
“If you call it cunning,” I said, “to play one member of your staff against another. For my part, I would call it knavery.”
“Good generalship,” he said.
“Gerrymandering,” I answered.
“A ruse de guerre,” he countered.
“Pawky politics,” I argued.
(Daphne Du Maurier, from The King’s General)
Select Synonyms: shrewd, cunning, perspicacious, sagacious, clever, sharp, argute.
aprosexia /a-proh-SEX-ee-ə/. noun. Not what it sounds or looks like, aprosexia is the abnormally severe inability to focus one’s attention. We’re talking here about a state well beyond that of the classic absent-minded professor and into the realm of a medical condition sometimes thought to be caused by “adenoid vegetations” (eww). From Greek a (negative) + prosexein (turn attention to) from pros (toward) + echein (to hold).
“In 1887, Guye, of Amsterdam, published a paper on defective nasal respiration, in which be coined the term ‘aprosexia,’ deﬁning it as a lack of power of concentrating the mind, or inability to fix and hold the attention.” (Derrick Vail, from The Cincinatti Lancet-clinic)
“The word aprosexia is not connected with sex; via Greek a (negative) + prosexein (turn, the attention) it is applied to an abnormal inability to concentrate. Fixing persistently on one idea is hyperprosexia; turning constantly to side issues is paraprosexia. Man’s major drives are for security and power; sex is a side issue, to keep him going.” (Joseph Shipley, from The Origins of English Words)
“Aprosexia is the inability to concentrate on anything…some of us call that the Internet.” (from AsapSCIENCE)
agapemone /a-gə-PE-mə-nee/. noun. A community of love. An establishment for free-love. As a proper noun, it refers to either of the headquarters of the religious sects founded by Rev. Henry James Prince or Rev. John Hugh Smyth-Pigott in the mid-late 1800s. A coinage roughly derived from Greek agapē (love) + monē (stopping place).
“The happy nature of my retirement is most sweetly expressed in its being the abode of Love. It is, as it were, an inexpensive Agapemone.” (Charles Dickens, from All the Year Round)
“I myself would move immediately back into our Audrey’s former agapemone or ‘Guest’ room down the hall.” (David Foster Wallace, from Oblivion)
She even wrote a book.’ ¶
‘About agapemones?’ ¶
‘Yes. And the Higher Wisdom. And Beautiful Thought. That sort of thing. Full of bad syntax.’ (Dorothy L. Sayers, from Gaudy Night)
“that she should still allow Christopher to run an Agapemone in what was after all her own house, Sylvia would have liked to be able to reply: ‘Ah, but what can you expect of a woman upon whose stairs you will find, side by side, a hairbrush, a frying pan, and a copy of Sappho!’” (Ford Madox Ford, from Parade’s End)