Friday, March 20, 2009


Adoxography is a term coined in the late 19th century, and means "fine writing on a trivial or base subject." It was a form of rhetorical exercise “in which the legitimate methods of the encomium are applied to persons or objects in themselves obviously unworthy of praise, as being trivial, ugly, useless, ridiculous, dangerous or vicious” – see Arthur S. Pease, ‘Things Without Honor’, Classical Philology Vol. XXI (1926) 27, at 28-9. Wikipedia. What do you call it when you have mediocre writing on a trivial subject? Apparently, the ability to praise apparently worthless causes is central to attorneys' courtroom advocacy. After thirty or so years, you would think I would have this down pretty well.

The problem with the definition, of course, is that one man's (or woman's) trivial or base is another's monumentally important subject. I find the worst writing lately, in the comment columns of the news. If there were some sort of filter, allowing only those who could write grammatically to post comments, both the tenor and the substance of the comments would increase in quality.

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