Challenging Word of the WeeK: laconism

I haven’t done one of these words of the week for awhile, but the popularity of the movie 300 reminded me that I never included one of my favorite entries from the book 1000 Most Challenging Words:


(LAK uh niz um) noun

Or laconicism (luh KON uh siz um) We are more familiar with the adjective laconic (luh KON ik) than the noun laconism, a concise style of language, brevity; also applied to a short, pithy statement. Laconia was long ago a country in the southern Greece, with Sparta as its capital. The Spartans were concise, brusque, and pithy in their speech, hence laconic, under which entry in this author’s 1000 Most Important Words we read: “Philip of Macedonia wrote to the Spartan officials: ‘If I enter Laconia, I will level Sparta to the ground.’ Their answer: ‘If.’ Caesar’s famous ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ (‘I came, I saw, I conquered’) is a famous example of laconic speech — not a word wasted.” When General Sir Charles Napier (1782-1855) finally completed the conquest of Sind, a province of India, the story goes, he cabled the War Office one word: “Peccavi” (Latin for “I have sinned”). Quite a laconism, and quite a paronomasia in the bargain, even though the cable is generally believed to be apocryphal. And finally, the message radioed by an American pilot in World War II: “Sighted sub, sank same,” an alliterative laconism.

My example: Don Imus might wish he had spent more time working on his laconisms.

From the book, “1000 Most Challenging Words” by Norman W. Schur, ©1987 by the Ballantine Reference Library, Random House. I post a “Challenging Words” definition to call more attention to this delightful book and to promote interesting word usage in the blogosphere. I challenge other bloggers to work the current word into a post sometime in the coming week. If you manage to do so, please leave a comment or a link to where I can find it. Previous words in this series can be found under the appropriate Category heading in the right-hand sidebar.

One thought on “Challenging Word of the WeeK: laconism

  1. In other words—I came, I saw, I lopped off every one of their stinking heads—would not be considered a laconism. I took JR to see 300 while on vacation. Those guys definitely let their swords do their talking for them.

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