Stan Kelly-Bootle [ to M.R ]
...you are overlooking some basic linguistic “truths.” [...] Browning was a
prodigious linguist, a master of Latin and Greek by age 14 or so [...]
Re-”mollitude”: one must distinguish the different levels of “neologization.”
[...]Latin roots especially were borrowed and grammatically Anglicized en masse
with obvious meanings [...] But, as a separate word-forming mechanism,
we have many “rules” in English whereby parts-of-speech can be
transformed: nouns into adjectives; verbs into nouns; adjectives into
adverbs[...] I hope this observation will reduce the “argufaction” over NATURAL
variants such as “mollitude” (noun) and “mollitious” (adjective).
JM: A tropical country might
favor the frequent choice of words which describe slow-moving,
limp, lazy, soft things and their descriptive variations from
etymological "molle" into "mole" ( moleza, molejo,
manemolência; v.amolecer/mollify), in an
I prefer Browning's choice of "mollitious" (in
Portuguese it comes as a noun, in regionalistic
malicious "malemolencia) - to VN's "mollitude", as
it was rendered in ADA ( "the luxury and mollitude of my first Villa Venus".)
for which I found no equivalent in our modern popular usage or
any clear meaning ("softness"=""moleza", "molenga").
strange ring in my lazy ears comes from VN's creation of
"viatic" applied to roads ( as in "Glory" and "Lolita"). We find
"viary" in this sense ( for train or car highways), whereas "viatic" has
acquired distinct meanings ( the holy-host carried by a priest to a moribund
catholic; travel expenses; small change; food stored during
for this comparative "argufaction" on the English rules
for "neologization", also because I have no examples of Browning's
sentences to be certain that his variations are more in "toon"
with another actual
and thriving language.
Jansy’s reference to literary “swans” reminds me that VN would also have
picked up from his Cambridge days the donnish-waspish limerick that was still
popular during my terms (1950-55)...