May 3, 2007

expatiate and expostulate

expatiate v. 1655
To speak or write at some length; to enlarge; to be copious in description or discussion.
Often used with on or upon.

ETY: [(ex- ) + spatir to walk about. The earliest sense (now rare and literary) of expatiate:To walk about at large. 1876.]

  • "Ancient orators used to expatiate in praise of their country." 1721
  • "The remarkable deficiency of our recent literature..has constantly tempted me to expatiate." 1850 --OED Online
We turn now from the "expansive" expatiate to the "earnest" expostulate.


expostulate v. 1574
To make friendly remonstrances or representations for the purpose of reprehension or dissuasion; to reason or remonstrate in a friendly manner with (a person), about, for, on, or upon (a thing).

[Latin ex- + postulre, to demand]

  • I haue great cause to expostulate with you for this your vnchristian..and most vniust handling of me.—1574
  • He'll give me leave to expostulate..about his Conduct.—1699
  • I expostulated for the Non-performance of the late Conditions.—1726
  • The Count followed to expostulate and entreat.—1794
  • He expostulated with him on the impropriety of such conduct to strangers.—1856

expostulating verbal and noun 1625
expostulatingly adverb 188
  • Men, women, and children rushed past the excited and expostulating officers. 1883 Harper's Mag.—1885
  • She..laid her hand on one of his expostulatingly.—1883
DISCRIMINATING BETWEEN expatiate AND expostulate

John L. Dusseaue, author of a compendious word-book titled Bugabooa, Chimeras, & Achielles' Heels: 10,001 Difficult Words & How to Use Them, offers the following discernments about the two words we are considering:

expatiate versus expostulate:

The first word
means to enlarge on in discussion or in writing or to be copious in detail and is often followed by on or upon. "Those who expatiate with delight on the wonders of creation" (Chalmers)

The second word means to argue earnestly or vehemently with someone about something he intends to do or has done. "Stay not to expostulate, make speed." (Shakespeare)
--John L. Dusseau. Bugaboos, Chimeras, & Achilles' Heel. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1993.

Every College English major at one time or another studies
the short poem "Expostulation and Reply" by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. Historically, Wordsworth and the other Romantics (Shelly, Byron, Keats, and Coleridge) follow immediately upon and in reaction against the Neoclassical poets (Dryden and Pope) . Neoclassical poets prized inductive and deductive reason as they pursued an intellectual life dominated by reading classic writers of the past, such as Plato, Sophocles and Aristotle.

The Romantics, contrariwise, arrived at what they called transcendental truth through the process of intuition, the exercise of the imagination, and trust in the power of nature to instruct an open heart.

"Expostulation and Reply" begins with the bookish Matthew (representing neo-classicism) rendering an expostulation
against the seated William for his passive behavior, challenging him with questions such as "Why, William, sit you thus alone, / And dream your time away?" and "Where are your books?" He then chides William to be --"Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed / From dead men to their kind." In other words, "Get up, Will, and read read your Aristotle!"

William (representing romanticism) counters Matthew's expostulation with the reply
"we can feed this mind of ours / In a wise passiveness." And thus--ipsi dixit and with no little petitio principii—the argument is over—in Wordsworth's view— with the Romantic sensibility prevailing—"[a]gainst or with our will" as the truest guide in live's signal purpose, to "still be seeking."

There is an amusing, utterly harmless, but inescapable irony of situation here: Wordsworth discounts the value of books via the poem-on-paper, the essential constituent of his very target, books.

Expostulation and Reply

By William Wordsworth

"Why, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?

"Where are your books?--that light bequeathed
To Beings else forlorn and blind!
Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
From dead men to their kind.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you;
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you!"

One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:

"The eye--it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where'er they be,
Against or with our will.

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.

"Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?

"--Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
Conversing as I may,
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away."

No comments:

Post a Comment