June 8, 2007


venal adj. (VEE-nuhl, VEE-n-l)

1 : capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration
: made matter of trade or barter;
: open to corrupt influence and especially bribery
2 : originating in, characterized by, or associated with corrupt bargaining
—"venal." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged . Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (9 Jun. 2007).


mmLatin venalis = for sale


Venal IN USE

FROM "Tribal Loyalties" by Edward WongThe New York Times, Sec. 6: Book Review, Sunday, May 27, 2007,18.

A book review of The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace, by Ali A. Allawi, Yale University Press.

"As the Iraq war enters its fifth year, an old saying can be heard more and more often in the homes, cafes and streets of the country: “Because of a lack of horses, they put saddles on the dogs.” There are no real Iraqi leaders, a Kurdish friend told me, and the Americans have blindly, and often desperately, propped up politicians who are venal, ineffective and more than a little megalomaniacal."

Venal IN USE
From "The Rove Da Vinci Code" by Frank Rich The New York Times Magazine, May 21, 2006.
Politicians, particularly but not exclusively in the Karl Rove camp, seem to believe that voters of ''faith'' are suckers who can be lured into the big tent and then abandoned once their votes and campaign cash have been pocketed by the party for secular profit.

Nowhere is this game more naked than in the Jack Abramoff scandal: the felonious Washington lobbyist engaged his pal Ralph Reed, the former leader of the Christian Coalition, to shepherd Christian conservative leaders like James Dobson, Gary Bauer and the Rev. Donald Wildmon and their flocks into ostensibly ''anti-gambling'' letter-writing campaigns.They were all duped: in reality these campaigns were engineered to support Mr.Abramoff's Indian casino clients by attacking competing casinos.

While that
scam may be the most venal exploitation of ''faith'' voters by Washington operatives, it's all too typical. This history repeats itself every political cycle: the conservative religious base turns out for its party and soon finds itself betrayed.

Above: Jack Abramhoff



In Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions, Harry Shaw — writer, editor, lecturer, teacher, and word mavin clearly and compactly distinguishes venal from venial and offers tips on how to remember each word's meaning:
These words look alike and sound somewhat alike but venal
VEE-n-l) has a connotation of corruption. Venial (VEE-ni-uhl), a term of mild reproach, means "excusable," "pardonable." It may help to keep them straight by remembering that venal comes from a Latin term meaning "for sale" (venalis) and venial from Latin venia ("forgiveness").

Associate venal with penal and venial with genial. "This corrupt administration has entered into many venal agreements." "Not sending them a wedding present was my venial offense against bood manners."—Harry Shaw. Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions. New York: Washington Square Press. 1975.
QUID PRO QUO = "something for something"

A VENAL greement
is a quid pro quo
with corrupt





  1. Looking at the paper money graphics made me think of other similarly spelled words, "vernal" and "verdant" which I both see as green. The Tahoe National Forest has notable areas of "vernal pools" which are very green and lush. Vernal means springlike. And verdant, of course, is defined as green, the color of "greenbacks"!
    BTW, thanks for clarifying the difference between venal and venial, the latter of which I can relate to recalling my Catholic childhood. Annenonymous

  2. Hello Annenonymous.

    Thank you for sharing your recent "verbo-generative" experiences following the posting on "venal." Your chain of "v"-words ending with "verdant" prompted me to give the OED a visit, to rubberneck for a while the words that precede and follow "vernal." As a happy consequence, I learned a phrase and a prefix, both from the Latin. The prefix is "verbo-" from the Latin term for "word." It's a prefix, like the "ab-" in "absquatulate," to use when making up nonce words, I'm hoping it's obvious that "verbo-generative" suggests the power of a word to prompt awareness of other words and of images. The Latin phrase I learned is one that is used at the end of a document its writer judges to be complete, satisfactory, finished. And I will use it to end this note. Verbum sat.

    Bloggin' John