Oct 18, 2009

Rapid Rhetoric: PERLUSTRATE

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.

perlustrate (PEHR-luh-straight) v.to travel through and thoroughly survey; to traverse and inspect carefully.

Derived from the the past participle stem of the Latin word perlustrare ("to wander through"), this word conveys both a visual and movement sense.

I came across the related word perlustration in The Memoirs of Count Witte. The Baltic German Sergei Witte was an influential Tsarist minister who led the drive toward industrialization and modernization in the last decades of the Russian Empire. In the following passage he expressed his discontent with a perlustrative practice:
I believe that perlustration of private correspondence is essentially a harmful practice. It lays before the Administration intimate and purely confidential matters, thus giving the Minister of the Interior a means for settling personal accounts. I am certain that if Stolypin had not been given to the study of perlustrated mail he would have acted more properly with regard to many people, and would have had fewer enemies.
While Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin certainly garnered many enemies in his career - especially after the Coup of June 1907 - I suspect his habit of perlustrating other peoples' mail was the least likely of his behaviors to cause him to become the recipient of the bullets of an assassin.


mikeb302000 said...

It reminds me of the more common, "peruse," which is often misused, leaving out the "thoroughly" part.

Svetlana said...

How lucky you are to come across this word for the first time at an adult age! As a person who grew up in the Soviet Union, I knew its meaning only too well. We could never assume that our correspondence, - or a telephone conversation, or any other way of communication to that effect - would remain private. In fact, a word which you will never come across in the Russian language is the word "privacy" - there simply is not an equivalent for that term. Isn't that symptomatic?