This blog is not laconic

Do you have one of those words that no matter how many times you see it, no matter how many times you look it up in the dictionary, you simply can NOT remember what it means the next time you see it?

For me, that word is “laconic.” At least it was until recently, when a friend of mine shared with me the interesting etymology behind this word.

It’s always seemed to me that laconic meant something like “limp” or “lackadaisical.” I believe that somehow it got convoluted in my mind with the word “languid.” So I would see “laconic” and think it meant “languid,” while at the same time realizing that my thinking was wrong, and knowing that I had no idea what it actually meant. Frustrating! Thanks, P.M., for sharing with me the following.

The story goes that the adjective comes from “Lakon,” a Greek word referring to a person from Lakonia. The Lakons were known to be people of few words. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Lakonia is “the district around Sparta in southern Greece in ancient times, whose inhabitants were famously proud of their brevity of speech. When Philip of Macedon threatened them with, ‘If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground,’ the Spartans’ reply was, ‘If.'”

Isn’t that awesome? What great self-confidence is condensed in that one-word reply! That I could be so succinct.

I’m a Spartan myself, but laconic I shall never be.

About Verla

Wordfreak. Linguist. WA State licensed P.I. #3377. Principal, Viera Investigations. Spanish-English interpreter. Sole proprietor, Encanto Language Services. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, PacNWer by choice. Jewelry artist, Different Drummer Designs. Owner, world’s most gigantic dachshund. Driver, world’s almost smallest car. Chocoholic. Lover of things purple.
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4 Responses to This blog is not laconic

  1. Kerry says:

    Fascinating! I once new a man who was a cross between a cowboy and an irreverent intellectual; of all things, I remember watching him walk and thinking “He is laconic.” It was his pace that struck me as something not seen on the streets of New York City…there was nothing frantic about his walk, and he was a man of few words indeed.

    • Verla says:

      Perhaps you’ve hit on something here, Kerry. Maybe reticence is so correlated (whether in truth or only in perception) with a mellow, loose demeanor that “laconic” has come to be associated with this sort of ease. Thanks for stopping by!

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