Tibetan Situation Getting Sticky

By Maeve Maddox

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I was startled to read the following in an article by Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen:

But China has angrily rejected all calls for dialogue, and Tibet’s hardline Communist Party chief [Zhang Qingli ] was quoted Wednesday in a particularly viscous attack on the Dalai Lama

The quotation left me picturing His Holiness covered with something like tar, awaiting the application of feathers.

Bodeen probably meant vicious.

vicious [vishus] – bad, villainous, reprehensible, mean, depraved, noxious, savage
Vicious comes from the Latin word Latin vitiosus, meaning ” full of faults, bad, corrupt.”

The word viscous, on the other hand, comes from a Latin word viscosus, meaning “full of birdlime.”

viscous [viskus] – viscid, gelatinous, gluey, sticky.

Syrup is viscous. Oil is viscous. (No oil in Tibet.)

While we’re at it, birdlime is a sticky substance smeared on a surface with the intention of catching birds. It was usually made of holly bark, but mashed up mistletoe berries work.

The lime in birdlime comes from a Latin verb meaning “to smear.”

The Bodeen article goes on to say that the Chinese government regularly insults the Dalai Lama as a matter of policy:

Critics say China fuels such anger [as provoked the recent demonstrations] through harsh restrictions on Tibetan culture and Buddhism — including routine vilification of the Dalai Lama, who is deeply revered by most Tibetans.

Which brings us to another V word.

vilification – The action of vilifying by means of abusive language.

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11 Responses to “Tibetan Situation Getting Sticky”

  • Ali

    I dont too understand about this topic but i would like to learn that

  • Brad K.

    Umm – was that last ‘villification’ to make villous (cover with hair?) or vilification – the action of vilifying?. Was it supposed to be villication – a Scots pronunciation of vellication – a twitch, from vellicte, to twitch.

    I really enjoy my Chambers 20th Century Dictionary, New Edition 1983.

  • Alice

    Words that are close in spelling can really be stumbling blocks. On Yahoo this past week, writers twice used the word “climatic” instead of the intended “climactic”. I hear this spoken all the time.

  • Benjamin Baxter

    A viscous attack would be pretty vicious, though.

  • norina

    Although it is a flimsy excuse, the spelling mistake was probably a result of “spell-check”. Viscous, vicious – chi sa?

  • Rick Minor

    Question: why do we enclose a word, name or letter in [brackets]?
    in today’s posting the Communist Party chief Zhang Qingli is bracketed. Why? Additionally, a word with just the first letter bracketed will appear in a sentence. [T]he is the word I am thinking of. How does this differ from parenthesis?
    Thank You,
    Rick Minor

  • Maeve

    I put the party chief’s name in square brackets because it does not appear in the sentence being quoted.

    Square brackets in a quoted passage indicate that information is being added to the original or, in the case of your example [T]he, capitalization has been altered to fit the context.

    Parentheses () have different uses. When writing a movie review I use them after a movie title to indicate the date of release:
    National Velvet (1944).

    I also use them after a character name to indicate the actor that plays the part: Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor).

    Writers often use parentheses to enclose a thought that is a bit peripheral to the sentence in which they appear. This use of parentheses can be overdone. I think it’s best to avoid it as much as possible.

  • Julia

    I think that “vilification” only has one L. Better be careful. Bodeen may make retaliatory jokes about your spelling errors.

  • Maeve

    I do have an excuse, though excuses don’t count with published work. I have trouble distinguishing the letters l and i when they come together in sans serif type. And, despite my advice to others, I didn’t run spell check on this one.


  • jeannie stone

    This is all very interesting fodder, but I was most shocked that I read this quote 4 times and didn’t find the offense until after I read your comment! I have never mistaked viscous for viscious, and yet my eye did not even catch the err (error!). I would never make a good editor!

  • Maeve

    It’s a funny thing–errors in other people’s writing seem to leap off the page at me, while my own mistakes have a way of remaining invisible.

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