September 9, 2008


The tough, white, fibrous
sclerotic coat covering the eyeball


Rigid, hard, unyielding,

In use:
In willingly taking up the two-edged sword of maverickism; in spelling out his frequent flights against the sclerotic, cosy two-party establishment; in zinging that “big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second Washington crowd”; in the new media adulation of his smoothly delivered acceptance extravaganza, [Senator John\ McCain stiffly stole the clothes of change. — William Safire, “The Maverick Ticket,” New York Times, Sunday Opinion, Sept. 7, 2008.
Derivation: skleros, Greek = hard.

In the dictionaries:

adj. Unmoving, unchanging, rigid (Shorter OED 2002). Mid 20 C.

adj. Hard, firm, applied especially to the outer membrane of the eye-ball; pertaining to sclerosis.
noun. the outermost membrane of the eyeball (Chambers Etymological Dictionary, 1966.). Late Middle English.

[The term Sclera, with its line indicator,
appears in the drawing's upper left quadrant.]

"The Sclera is opaque and makes up 5 sixths of the outer layer of the
eyeball. It is visible between the eyelids as the white of the eye."


Most users of American English rarely see the word sclerotic, much less use it, as does William Safire so effectively above in his characterization of the "cozy two-party establishment" in Washington.

Why effective? Because the original medical sense of sclerotic denotes the hardness of the outermost layer of the eyeball. Thus with a word-wise wink, Safire, ever the word-meister, describes the modern American political party with the subtle yet apt metaphoric image of the human eyeball — tough, white-hued (pure?), slick, smooth, and ever-shifting (shifty?) as it peers upon the American political scene.

A Tangential Add-on:

Speaking of the eyeball as an image with potential entailments relative to the human condition, you are invited to click the tab below to read a short deferential piece devoted to America's preiminent eyeball: Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Transparent Eyeball" in his philosophical text Nature:

Standing on the bare ground,— my head
bathed by the blithe air, & uplifted into
infinite space,— all mean egotism
vanishes. I become a Transparent

"Transparent Eyeball"
by Christopher Pearse Cranch

"While not exactly an image of Emerson, the "transparent eyeball" based on Christopher Pearse Cranch’s caricature of a passage from Nature, is famously associated with him" (Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, ).


No comments:

Post a Comment