Words and Phrases We Must Ensure Live On


DictionaryI know it isn’t apparent from the haphazard editing and overall sloppiness of writing that’s displayed here six times a week, but I make a living as a writer. (Clients—let this blog not be the standard of measure!) I own my own writing/editing company and do business in a number of writing-related fields.

Because of this, I can’t help but love a certain turn of a phrase, particularly one that utterly nails the point while using polysyllabic words. For this reason, I love to read P.J. O’Rourke; he makes me reach for the dictionary.

In a lighter vein then, I’m trotting out one of my favorite word phrases, one I hope never goes out of style, but which I have not seen in print lately:

ne plus ultra

As it says over at Dictionary.com:

      ne plus ultra \nee-plus-UL-truh; nay-\, noun:
      1. The highest point, as of excellence or achievement; the acme; the pinnacle; the ultimate.
      2. The most profound degree of a quality or condition.

This ne plus ultra of wickedness . . .
—John Stuart Mill, Autobiography

He also penned a number of supposedly moral and improving books which . . . were the very ne plus ultra of tedium.
—Richard West, “A life fuller than fiction,” Irish Times, August 9, 1997

If you were a graduate student in the 80’s and subject to the general delusion that held literary criticism to be the ne plus ultra of intellectual thrill, then you too probably owned one of these: an oversize paperback with an austere cover and small-type title that, grouped with three or more of its kind on your bookshelf, confirmed your status as an avatar of predoctoral chic.
—Judith Shulevitz, “Correction Appended,” New York Times, October 29, 1995

    Ne plus ultra is from Latin, literally, “(go) no more beyond”, from ne, “not” + plus, “more” + ultra, “beyond.”

Don’t you just love phrases like that? I’ve seen a whole bushel of “schadenfreude” and “Sturm und Drang” lately, but it’s been a long time since I’ve run across another of my favorite words/phrases, “mellifluous.” English has about six times the number of words that French has, and I hope to keep plenty of those fine English words in play.

So what are your favorite words or phrases? We bloggers need to share our pet words and such so that our writing truly becomes the ne plus ultra of the Internet.

4 thoughts on “Words and Phrases We Must Ensure Live On

  1. OK..I have two—-
    The first is one taught to me by an English teacher friend:
    copacetic, which means A-OK.

    The second one is contiguous as in “my city is contiguous to Los Angeles (which, by the way, it actually is). The word means sharing a common boundary.

    Now, I wonder how I can use those words in my blog…LOL.

  2. Duncan

    “Sesquipedalian” was a word the vicar used at our wedding. He was introducing us to concepts such as reciprocity and warned us that he’d be using sesquipedalian words to it – words of many syllables.

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