pathos /ˈpāˌTHäs/, n. 1. The quality or character of those emotions, traits, or experiences which are personal, and therefore restricted and evanescent; transitory and idiosyncratic dispositions or feelings as distinguished from those which are universal and deep-seated in character; — opposed to ethos.
It continued. 2. That quality or property of anything which touches the feelings or excites emotions and passions, esp., that which awakens tender emotions, such as pity, sorrow, and the like; contagious warmth of feeling, action, or expression; pathetic quality; as, the pathos of a picture, of a poem, or of a cry.
Dear god! How did I not know about this dictionary? How could you even callyourself a dictionary if all you give for “pathos” is “a quality that evokes pity or sadness”? Webster’s definition is so much fuller, so much closer to felt experience.
Notice, too, how much less certain the Webster definition seems about itself, even though it’s more complete — as if to remind you that the word came first, that the word isn’t defined by its definition here, in this humble dictionary, that definitions grasp, tentatively, at words, but that what words really are is this haze and halo of associations and evocations, a little networked cloud of uses and contexts.
What I mean is that with its blunt authority the New Oxford definition of “pathos” — “a quality that evokes pity or sadness” — shuts down the conversation, it shuts down your thinking about the word, while the Webster’s version gets your wheels turning: it seems so much more provisional — “that which awakens tender emotions, such as pity, sorrow, and the like; contagious warmth of feeling, action, or expression; pathetic quality; as, the pathos of a picture, of a poem, or of a cry” — and therefore alive.
Most important, it describes a word worth using: a mere six letters that have come to stand for something huge, for a complex meta-emotion with mythic roots. Such is the power of actual English.
The pleasure of finding things out
I could go on forever listing examples. I could say, “Look up example, magic,sport. Look up arduous, huge, chauvinistic, venal, pell-mell, raiment, sue, smarting,stereotype. Look up the word word, and look, and up. Look up every word you used today.” Indeed that’s what motivated this post: I’d been using Webster’s dictionary for about a year; I kept looking words up, first there, then in whatever modern dictionary was closest to hand, and seeing this awful difference, evidence of a crime that kept piling up in my mind, the guilt building: so many people were getting this wrong impression about words, every day, so many times a day.
There is a lot of artisit talent in my family. One of my father's brothers was artistic. In my generation my sister Corinne has a lot and is a serious professional. The talent fairy skipped over me, but visited both of my nieces.. Alys is a family photographer and put up a webpage showing some of her work. If you have a need and live in the East end of the Phoenix metropolis you might want to drop her a note. good stuff:-)
DuckDuckGo is my search engine of choice - a profile in Fast Company. It is "good enough" for my purposes, isn't heavily filtered with ad pushes, and I would rather pay for a service, than be a piece of the product sold to advertisers. (I gave up FB and most of Google - I still use YouTube)
When I was young the family stereo came with about a dozen promotion records. One was a Bell Telephone Hour presentation of The Mikado featuring - get this - Groucho Marx. My mother and I memorized it and would sing parts of it to each other. At the time I didn’t realize it was an shortened version, but that didn’t matter as it started me down a G&S appreciation path. G&S purists may be appalled, but I find it an amazing bit of history. At the time television was trying to find its “voice” with televised versions of live music and plays commonplace.
Last night I saw a video of the original performance for the first time - a gift from my sister and brother in law. Such a delight - I attempted to track this down several times when I worked for AT&T, but it was tied up with a variety of rights issues.