Jun 9, 2009

Rapid Rhetoirc: MARCESCENT

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

marcescent (mahr-SEH-sent) adj. (botany) withered but not falling off, as in leaves that stay attached to a plant.

Derived from the Latin verb marcescere ("to wither," "to decay"), the word marcescent describes dead parts of plants that remain secured to the plant. I actually came across this word in a poetic context while perusing an 1893 compilation of the Atlantic Monthly:

How often is the flower of human life marcescent, tenacious of its old estate when the blooming-time is past. Better, how much, to wither and fall than to wither and cling! Wise are they who, marking the deciduous turn of the season, softly shed the desires and exactions suitable to youth, but not to the waning year; remembering that

"Quiet coves
The soul has in its autumn."

I thought the word might serve well in a more cynical context, perhaps in a hypothetical case of a crotchety old man who refuses to die. I have no one in particular in mind, but as I write this I suddenly considered it might also apply to politicians who overstay their welcome.


Thomas said...


just sayin'.......

historymike said...

Get out of my head!