Monday, November 19, 2012


Meaning: Arrogance, presumption, excessive pride.

Usefulness: 1 (A word that can be disguised with tone: "Very impressive, sir: I've seldom seen surquedry so splendidly displayed.")

Logofascination: 1 (An old word, come to us via Old French from the Latin supercogitare, or over-think, as in think too much of oneself - overweening is the same concept via Old English. Overweening surquedry is therefore a satisfyingly tautological phrase. Surquedry has the rather lovely adjectival forms surquidant and surquidous.)

In the wild: I suspect I found it in Ekskybalauron, but it also turns up in Spenser's Fairie Queene, in a description of the origin of mermaids:
They were faire ladies, till they fondly striv’d
With th’ Heliconian maides for maystery;
Of whom they over-comen, were depriv’d
Of their proud beautie, and th’ one moyity
Transformd to fish, for their bold surquedry;
But th’ upper halfe their hew retayned still,
And their sweet skill in wonted melody;
Which ever after they abusd to ill,
T’ allure weake traveillers, whom gotten they did kill.
Degrees: 1

Connections: n/a

Used in: Ekskybalauron - Sir Thomas is urging the English to grant the Scots representation in government, among other things:
This was not heeded in ancient times by reason of the surquedry of the old English, who looked on the Scots with a malignant eye; and the profound policie of the French, in casting, for their own ends, the spirit of division betwixt the two nations to widen the breach. But now that the English have attained to a greater dexterity in encompassing their facienda's* of State, and deeper reach in considering what for the future may prove most honourable and lucrative, will, like an expert physician to a patient sick of a consumption in his noble parts, who applieth cordials and not corrosives, and lenitives** rather then cauters, strive more, as I imagine to gain the love and affection of the Scots, thereby to save the expence of any more blood or mony, then for overthrowing them quite in both their bodies and fortunes, to maintain the charge of an everlasting war against the storms of the climate, the fierceness of discontented people, inaccessibility of the hills, and sometimes universal penury, the mother of plague and famine; all which inconveniences may be easily prevented without any charge at all, by the sole gaining of the hearts of the country. 
The conditions Sir Thomas describes could well be applied to several countries and peoples throughout history: "storms of the climate, the fierceness of discontented people, inaccessibility of the hills, and sometimes universal penury, the mother of plague and famine". And war, and death, as Scotland - and others - can attest.

Rather than end on that dreary note, I'll leave you to consider whether or not noble parts is a euphemism, in which case cordials would be much more welcome than corrosives.

* this got too long for a footnote, so will get a post.
** something soothing. 

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