My post on the word paralipsis came about as a result of my describing someone as being paraliptic. Someone told me, authoritatively, that I was in error and that paraliptic was not a word. I explained that it was a perfectly legitimate adjective derived from the noun, paralipsis, and then replacing the suffix by the -tic.
Not wanting to be proven wrong, my critic then said that if it were a word, why couldn’t she find in using a “dictionary site, wikipedia or any other references.” I countered by telling her that a word’s absence from an Internet dictionary doesn’t mean it is bogus – and I pointed her in the direction of the 2nd Edition OED, Volume XI, page 193, third column.
Her final comment was to accuse me of “pedanticism and pretentiousness.” I took that as a victory.
But that made me curious about the word, pedantic, and whether it is a good or a bad thing. As far as I was concerned, all I was trying to do was support my hypothesis that paraliptic is a legitimate world, but she perceived it as pendantry. So, at what point is pedantry different from scholastic rigor?
A pedant was originally used for a teacher or schoolmaster, derived from the Italian pedante. Although there is no direct evidence, it is assumed that this, in turn, comes from the medieval Latin pedagogare meaning “to teach.” Hence the word pedagogue, which means “teacher.”
In the 15th century, being a pedant was OK. Starting in the 16th century, it took on a new meaning to apply to someone who “overrates book-learning or technical knowledge, or displays it unduly or unseasonably…one who lays excessive stress upon trifling details of knowledge or upon strict adherence to formal rules.”
This presumably includes people who pore over the OED simply to prove they are right. I guess I am a pedant after all!
Now, what’s this pretentious word all about…?