or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, March 30, 2009

Out and About

As you know, because I keep bringing it up, I am listening to a lecture series from The Teaching Company called History of Ancient Rome: I'm on, like, lecture 37 or 38 out of 48, so I won't be bothering you with this for too much longer.

Yesterday I used the word "egregious", because it was in my head, because it had appeared in a lecture on Roman society, but not in its English form. The social structure of ancient Rome was extremely stratified, with various grades and classes of people: the equestrian or knight class, which was fairly high up on the social scale, was further divided into such units as the "vir perfectissimus", "most perfect man"; "vir clarissimus", "most famous man"; and "vir egregius", "most outstanding man".

I wrote about "egregious" quite a while ago, and I made the observation that the word literally meant "out of the flock", because the person who behaved egregiously was going to get himself kicked out of polite society. But back then, as the term "vir egregius" suggests, the word didn't have our negative connotation. Just the opposite: someone who is "ex grex", "out of the flock", is someone who (in actuality or by title) has through his character and deeds managed to separate himself from the common rabble and prove himself exceptional.


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