Shane’s Excellent New Words: Hagiography — or haggis?


Welcome to another installment of SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, which was a regular feature of the now defunct NA Confidential blog.

But why new words? Why not the old, familiar, comforting words?

It’s because a healthy vocabulary isn’t about trying to show ward heelers you’re smarter than them. To the contrary, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Even anti-vaxxers are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, because in the end, all we really have is time on our hands, and moments enough for us to become better humans.

This week, let’s consider a noun: Hagiography. The British Dictionary definition strikes me as more complete, so we’ll use it.

hagiography /ˌhæɡɪˈɒɡrəfɪ/

noun (pl) -phies

1. the writing of the lives of the saints
2. biography of the saints
3. any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject

Derived Forms
hagiographic (ˌhæɡɪəˈɡræfɪk), hagiographical, adjective

The American pronunciation is slightly more clear.

[hag-ee-og-ruh-fee, hey-jee-]

I prefer sticking with the hard “g” sound, although as you can see, the soft variant is allowable.

The origin of hagiography

1805-15; hagio– + –graphy

Word Origin and History for hagiography

“Writing of saints’ lives,” 1821, from Greek hagios “holy” (see hagiology ) + -graphy. Related: Hagiographic (1819); hagiographical (1580s); hagiographer (1650s).

I realize that hagiography is all Greek to most folks residing in Nawbany, but ironically, the practice of hagiography is relatively common here even if the word itself is unknown. For instance, most politicians in my city employ Disneyesque public relations subalterns who spend their days writing flowery hagiography.

Me? I’d much rather eat haggis than enable personality cults.

hag·gis /ˈhaɡəs/
A Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach.

Until this precise moment, I never realized that hagiography and haggis are, in fact, synonyms. You learn something every single day, don’t you?


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