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Word for the Wise August 03, 2006 Broadcast Topic: John T. Scopes and silence

John T. Scopes, who grew up to become the defendant in the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, was born on this date in the year 1900. (来源:EnglishCN英语博客基地)

Mr. Scopes was willing to stand trial as a test case for teaching evolution (although he said he couldn't recall if he had ever actually taught the subject to his high school students). In fact, Scopes never took the stand and he remained silent throughout his trial (where he was found guilty).

The silence of that sacrificial lamb got us thinking about various sorts of silence in our lexicon. We'll begin with two terms associated with the judicial system: silentiary, meaning one appointed to keep silence and order (as in a court of law or public assembly); and oyez, the phrase used by criers of courts as a command to secure silence and attention before a proclamation. Oyez is the imperative plural of the Old French verb "to hear," while silentiary comes from the Latin term for a slave charged with maintaining silence among the domestic staff.

Radio and television employees dread dead air (silence during a broadcast), while word fanciers welcome the occasional choke pear. That now obsolete term was once used to refer to "a sarcasm by which one is put to silence; or something that cannot be answered."

Don't be afraid to quetch, that is, to break silence. We'd love to hear from you.

 
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