Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hagiography...a Witch of a Word!

February 3, 2010

Take Me at My Word…Hagiography…a Witch of a Word

Today’s installment has us dealing with a word that looks like one thing; however, possesses an entirely different meaning than one gathers upon first glance. Now that I’m receiving my fair share of “word a day” offerings in my email, I am provided with daily musings – or amusings – that have me thinking and writing extemporaneously, faster than you can say, “Hold on. Is that “hagiography” with one “g” or two? Which brings me to today’s subject.

The word is:


This word is a noun that is pronounced: (hag-ee-OG-ruh-fee, hay-jee-) and it has two basic meanings which are:
1. A biography of a saint.2. An uncritical biography, treating its subject with undue reverence.

Here’s a little etymology and usage action for you as well:

From Greek hagio- (holy) + -graphy (writing). A related word is hagiocracy (a government by holy persons; also a place thus governed).


"There's a whiff of hagiography in the sometimes sympathetic portrayal of the gang. But then, one man's terrorist..." — Tim Walker; The Baader-Meinhof Complex; The Independent (London, UK); Apr 17, 2009.

Now, for me, I hooked right onto the “hag” aspect of the word and my mind started racing, which I’m sure had nothing to do with those four cups of coffee I imbibed before the clock had struck seven…as in a.m. I thought about ways to combine the real dictionary meanings of this word with the way it sounded. I came up with my own sample sentence which, perhaps, you will also find helpful in remembering this utterly useful word that will now lie at the ready in your phalanx of word soldiers, poised to do battle in your daily efforts to communicate. Hold on. I need to take a breath here before I continue. There, that’s better. Now for that sample sentence I promised you:

Sample Sentence:
(Which will, most definitely have you chanting, “Which witch is which?” in no time.)

The hagiography written about Joan of Arc was truly inspirational, possessing depth and breadth of research, as well as an empathetic portrayal of a much-maligned historical figure.

Doesn’t that sentence just fairly drip with simplicity and definition enlightenment? What it does for me is provide me with a much-needed association to “hag,” which relates to “witch,” which is what Joan of Arc was accused of being when, in fact, she ended up being a saint, the probable opposite of a witch.

Now, see, you’ve got yet another – I’ll refrain from saying useless and go with unique – word to work into your daily conversation for your own personal verbal Olympics. Go forth and verbally battle at will. Tallyho!

(For catching up on another, “Take Me at My Word installment, See January 27, 2010. The word was “amanuensis,” which I still can’t spell unless I’m looking right at it.)

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