Today’s entry is for three capitalized words that I had to look up in order to understand the full impact of the sentence, which makes these more about allusion than definition, I suppose.
The first two are from my Sunday Transcendentalist Quote:
Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sunset and moonrise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams.
—”Nature” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I recognized Assyria as a place name from the Bible, possibly from the story of Jonah whose time in the belly of a fish was a result of his refusal to go to Nineveh, a city in Assyria. But that hardly explains why Emerson would compare the dawn to Assyria. He was referring to it as a great ancient empire, in fact, according to The Ancient History Encyclopedia, the first great empire in history.
Paphos was an entirely new word to me. According to the Wikipedia article, Paphos was an ancient city in Cyprus, the birthplace of Aphrodite and thus central to her worship. The mosaics in the ruins of the Roman governor’s palace are a tourist attraction even today.
So, Emerson was saying that the simple pleasures provided by the movements of the sun and moon rival those of the greatest times and places in history.
From a much less elevated source, Happy Ever After by Nora Robets (my review), I get my third word of this week. But first, some explanation of what’s going on in the story at this point. Parker Brown, owner of a wedding business, is explaining to her new beau, a stunt man turned auto mechanic, a problem with one of the brides. The bride wants her sister, the maid of honor, to wear celadon (the color of celery) but the sister says it makes her look sallow. A big fight ensues, and now Parker is stepping into pick up the pieces. The beau says:
“So it’s all about the celery.”
She laughed. “The celery is the MacGuffin. It’s about power control, emotions, stress, and family dynamics.”
I’ve never heard of a MacGuffin, but it’s a great term. This is from a handout on film terms from an English class taught by Dr. Joe Essid:
MacGuffin: Alfred Hitchcock coined this term; he meant plot device that makes the action happen without being important in and of itself. For instance, two strangers sitting next to each other might lead to a murder or a love affair. The plane ride is the MacGuffin.
So, Parker is saying that it’s not the color of the dress that’s important, even though that’s nominally what the fight was about. It’s about all the other things being expressed.
Edited to add: according to the A.Word.A.Day entry for MacGuffin:
Hitchcock borrowed it from a shaggy-dog story where a train passenger is carrying a large odd-shaped package. The passenger calls it a MacGuffin and explains to the curious fellow passengers that it’s a device used to catch lions in Scottish Highlands. When they protest that there are no lions in the Highlands, he simply replies, “Well, then this can’t be a MacGuffin.”
Jump over to the Wondrous Words Wednesday post to see other words that readers have learned. Have you learned any new words this week?