All languages that derive from Latin form the word “compassion” by combining the prefix meaning “with” (com-) and the root meaning “suffering” (Late Latin, passio). In other languages—Czech, Polish, German, and Swedish, for instance—this word is translated by a noun formed of an equivalent prefix combined with that word that means “feeling” (Czech, sou-cit; Polish, współ-czucie; German: Mit-gefühl; Swedish, med-känsla).
In languages that derive from Latin, “compassion” means: we cannot look on coolly as others suffer; or, we sympathize with those who suffer. Another word with approximately the same meaning, “pity” (French, pitié; Italian, pietà; etc.), connotes a certain condescension towards the sufferer. “To take pity on a woman” means that we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower ourselves.
This is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.
In languages that form the word “compassion” not from the root “suffering” but from the root “feeling,” the word is used in approximately the same way, but to contend that it designates a bad or inferior sentiment is difficult. The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion—joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion (in the sense of soucit, współczucie, Mitgefühl, medkänsla) therefore signifies the maximum capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy.
In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.
[The term] down by law at the time in the mid-eighties was in use on the streets as meaning a connection, a very close connection, with somebody. If somebody was down by law they were close to you, or you would protect them. Earlier, in prison slang, if somebody was down by law and they got out before you, they would contact your family or look after people outside if you needed them to. It meant something very close, a code. I really liked the contradiction of that, being something that sounds like being oppressed by the law, which of course under that condition is where the slang came from. I liked that contradiction of it, and I liked it also in terms of the film, being contradictory, in that [the characters] are oppressed by the law, but that they also become down by law with each other.
Jim Jarmusch on the Criterion Collection’s director commentary for Down By Law
limpid: free of anything that darkens
today in poetically phrased dictionary definitions
Actually, before anyone else “comes out,” and this is in no means a diminishment of the wellsprings of personal strength that those in the public eye who have come out in the past have had to summon in order to do so, but before anyone else follows their lead, how about we get rid of the entire expression. Coming out stems from the need to keep something hidden, and the need to keep something hidden stems from the idea that it’s bad or shameful. So whenever anyone “comes out,” no matter how joyful or liberating, it still plays into and feeds off of that basic darkness. No more! How about it? A better question would be: which famous person needs to just fuck whoever they want and fall in love with whoever they want and not worry about some kind of ignorant, archaic, bigoted, garbage reaction from the boring, overly entitled, violently intrusive public? And the answer to that question is: everybody.
The sun…no longer peeped out from time to time from behind the clouds, which rushed at the tops of buildings as if they would smother them in a murderous rage. The buildings stood their ground, impassive as cows. And at the very last second the clouds went to pieces.
Monica Ali, Brick Lane
Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude
Some words serve as little windows onto a whole moral world: the sooner child, or one born less than nine months after the wedding, or the rather sweet phrase take notice to describe a widow or widower beginning once again to consider a possible romance. Sometimes you need to read the quotes to understand a term’s power, as in this tantalizing snippet of a Los Angeles trial in the entry for snake hips: “The defense attorney asked: ‘In the part of the hula you did do, did you do the snake hips?’ ‘No,’ Hall said … ‘Was Mrs. Dorsey dancing the snake hips?’ ‘Yes, the snake hips, the hula, or whatever you call it.’
Then she hurried off, bum lolloping, to make sure all was in order.
Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Today in words I want to say and say and say: lollop.