Tibetan Situation Getting Sticky

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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 thoughts on “Tibetan Situation Getting Sticky”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

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

  7. Julia,
    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.


  8. 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!

  9. Jeannie,
    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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