Thursday, 28 March 2013


El Lector, The Reader, Ferdinand Hodler, Bathos, Bathetic
'El Lector' by Ferdinand Hodler


Noun. M17.
[Greek = depth. In purely English sense 2 introduced by Pope.]
  1. Depth, lowest phase, bottom. rare. M17.
  2. Rhetoric. Ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace; anticlimax. E18.
  3. A comedown; an anticlimax; a performance absurdly unequal to the occasion. E19.
Adjective. L18.
[from BATHOS after pathos, pathetic]
Marked by bathos.

My pulse quickens. I sit at my desk. The venerable tome sits upon it - The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 1 (Letters A - M). It is unopened. Tentatively, I place my hands upon its textured hardcover. I feel it calling me, whispering through millennia, tempting me to leap into its hallowed pages. The symbiotic yearning to impart and the yearning to imbibe sizzles between cover and fingertips. My mouth is dry. I know that, once opened, knowledge will be placed before my eyes; knowledge beyond my most fantastical and perverse dreams; knowledge that will shape me and change me; knowledge that will charge upon me a terrible responsibility. The die has been cast; it is my fate. With the gasp of a man stepping over the edge, I cast it open and throw myself upon it.

My eyes are closed. My head is upon the pages. The tender caress of paper cools my cheek. I am spent; it is as much as I can do to slowly open my eyes and see where my right hand has fallen. The black lettering of today's word slowly crystallises. A soft, plaintive moan escapes my lips. The word upon which providence has cast my hand is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I whisper it gently: 'Bathos.' I am unsated, unfulfilled, so I whisper it again, allowing my lips and tongue to linger over and caress its Grecian beauty: 'Baaah - thosssssss ...'

My mind flutters. What mortal meaning can such sublimity have? What transcendent knowledge can its syllables impress upon this vulgar human vessel? A single tear falls my eye upon the definition; I descry its words, words that charge my heart and elevate my mind.

'Bathos,' I croak, as a single sob courses through my body, as if the knowledge of the ages itself has taken hold of my soul. 'Bathos.' I am weeping, for now understanding is mine; it has been imparted to me. 'Bathos! Bathetic! A descent from the elevated to the mundane ... a performance absurdly unequal to its occasion ... bathos ... I understand it all! Oh let me be the medium of this hallowed knowledge; let me be the vessel that takes this to the world ...' 

I know what I must do; I know my burden. I slam my fist to the desk, throwing my head back and releasing a guttural roar to the heavens.



  1. Wow, mrs. Lexicolatry must've thought you went completely mad. o.O

    1. That ship sailed when I went to her a few months ago and said: "Hey! I've an idea for a blog, but it's going to take me several years to complete ..."

  2. I'm proud the Greek language gave you such a thrill!
    Βάθος is a pretty common word in Greek but I love meanings 2 and 3 in English.
    Have a good day, Ed!

    1. I have a special relationship with the word 'bathos', Evi, ever since a teacher in school told me to take it out of a story I wrote because it was a 'show-off word'.

      (I suspect she was annoyed because she had had to look it up in a dictionary while marking my work) : o D

  3. I want to record Morgan Freeman reading today's post so that I can set it as my ringtone. I would, however, never want to answer the phone again. thanks ed


    1. Morgan? If you just happen to come across this post, ten minutes of your time (and beautiful, beautiful voice) would be greatly appreciated ...

  4. Hmmm...It's almost like you were on some kind of medication when you were writing this post..!

    1. The love of beautiful words is the only drug I'll ever need Chlobo ...