Monday, September 24, 2012


Meaning: Listening, hearkening; in particular, listening to someone's insides with a stethoscope.

Usefulness: 2 (An impressive way to describe listening to music, podcasts, gossip, or other things generally not considered Productive: "What have you been doing all afternoon?" "I did quite a bit of auscultation, actually."  n.b. may not be successful if used around doctors or nurses.)

Logofascination: 2

In the wild: Somewhere on the internet, I spotted Chartran's "Laënnec à l'hôpital Necker ausculte un phtisique devant ses élèves (1816)" and wondered what on earth he was up to. Laennec invented the stethoscope.

Degrees: 2

Connections: auscultation - hearken

Which is used in: Rabelais' Prologue to the First Book (Gargantua), which commences: "Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings)" and concludes "But hearken, joltheads, you viedazes, or dickens take ye, remember to drink a health to me for the like favour again, and I will pledge you instantly, Tout ares-metys."  Hearken is translating escoutez, the then-French for listen, (now-French is écouter) which is from the same roots as auscultate.

I must admit to having a slightly disloyal preference for Frame's translation of the first line: "Most illustrious topers, and you, most precious poxies". Frame also renders Rabelais' viedazes into its literal translation, donkeypricks; it's interesting that Sir Thomas didn't, as he was not normally shy of such things.

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