A classical education is much to be missed. There was a time when all students lucky enough to go to secondary school received a classical education. Not, perhaps, classical in the sense of the
So, when a friend rang me with a statement that she had overheard, I was not surprised by what she related. The conversation had been between two of the ladies who hang out at the entrance to the post office in The Valley. One of them had said, “Don is just a pontifier. All he does is talk. If he really wants to help, why does he not do something about it. He could form a trade union and help the poor workers of
There was only one answer that anyone of my generation could give, “The correct word is ‘pontificate’.
There is, as every West Indian school boy of the 1950s knows, no such word as ‘pontifier’”. The word ‘pontiff’ comes from the Latin word ‘pontifex’. That word ‘pontifex’ is itself a portmanteau word. It is made up from the two Latin words, ‘puntis’ or propitiatory offering, and ‘facere’ meaning ‘to make’. Literally the word ‘pontifex’ means ‘maker of offerings to the gods’. In Roman antiquity, the title was given to the principal college of the priests of
By 1580, the word ‘pontiff’ enters the English language as a title conferred on the Bishop of Rome. He carries this title to this day. More to the point of this little post, by the year 1820 we see the verb ‘pontificate’ being used in its modern sense. It means to act the pontiff, to assume the airs of a pontiff, to issue dogmatic decrees.
'Res ipsa loquitur', as the lawyers of today would say.