cwconrad wrote:But presumably you didn't find this as a word wholly without a context.
Well, in fact, 20 years ago it was in a text - Republic or Symposium - and recently in a dictionary.
What is the model for a dictionay?
Perhaps it is like the splitting up of a family or society, where all members with a similar function are broadly classified together, further categorised and labeled, and then each on is confined to a little cell of their own. There is an identifying photo on the door of the cell. One shot from the front, another from the left side. If the ravages of time have left a scar, or if there was some birth defect, then perhaps the right side or the back could be recorded in the photograph at the door as well.
The words sit forlornly in their cells, like once powerful animals caged up in a Vicotian era zoo. The beast who once commanded the prairie can turn itself around in the enclosure with some difficulty. Some times, a once-scociable creature is given a single branch to play on with some painted ply-wood semblences of some of its friends, with which it used to frollick and shriek. In some other cases, there just a single twig, which it occassionally reaches out to touch trying hard to remember the life it once enjoyed, in many trees with many sights and sounds, while all the while observers believe they can see its natural habitat - and feel that just perhaps maybe, they have visited some exotic and far away jungle or savanah - but, in fact they never needed to get their shoes muddy by trugging through some obscure text themselves.
Then there are the rows upon rows of specimen jars and trays of insects - by now all dull and dust-covered - pinned onto cork or some other soft wood, arranged according to some order of magnitude or size that never had meaning before it was applied to order them. In other cases, they are arranged each with a single name beneath them, and as we run or eyes along the rows of the glossary, we find lifelessness and a complete lack of interaction between the bugs and their environment or each other. I mind grows numb to the life they once enjoyed, and we are led to believe over time that the most important thing that we can do with the little specimen pinned dead on the page is to memorise its name in either just English, or if we are really clever in Latin too.
There are of course those, who suggest we ourselves should go to Borneo, the Amazon or the Kruger National Park. The ones who say go, are usually the ones that have been there themselves. Seeing a creature in a zoo or natural history museum is a reminder for them of what they saw or experienced themselves.
But who does that these days when we have some digital programme to walk us through things safely from the comfort of our homes. In fact, we don't ever need to observe the animals ourselves now.
There are computer-generated digital simulations that not only allow us to see the animals movements in far greater detail than we would be able to ourselves, but also give us "meaningful and relevant" statistics in columns down the side of the screen. More advanced simulation programmes allow the user to control and master the creature's movements, not just to watch.
In other words... I did
find it out of context, yes, in a dictionary.