Friday, April 6, 2007


Well, if I must, but only because it popped up as today's wotd. Clarion comes from the Latin "clarus" for "clear", through the Middle Latin and Middle English "clarion" for a trumpet. And DD gives no indication of how or why that occurred. So, off to OED. OED doesn't have anything more to add, except for the irony that the primary definition of clarion given by DD ("loud and clear") is the 5th definition of OED, where the other four are the nouns relating to a trumpet or trumpet shaped thing. But I'm only analyzing the adjective here, since that twas the part of speech initially raised, and the trumpet aspect is obvious, at least among musicians. What OED does provide is an historical analysis of the etymology, and it appears that the first appearance of clarion in any sense was as the noun in 1325, although the first official listed usage wasn't until 1384 with Chaucer, again, as the instrument. The idea of the sound being a descriptor didn't appear until 1858. So, clearly, the instrument preceded the usage at issue, and the description of "loud and clear" evolved from the sound of the instrument, which name of the instrument evolved from the sound it created. Talk about circular reasoning. Cute. So, we have the clarion call of hungry children. Possibly. There is the inherent association with war which might be too far afield of hunger. The commonly understood clarion call to war probably originally was a trumpet sounding, and then when something other than trumpets provoked or signaled war, the metaphor was still retained. Telling the brass section to sound more clarion would probably be an insult, particularly if there were a clarion player. As I toy with expanded usages, it seems that as an adjective, clarion is inextricably tied to call. The clarion gun blasts at the firing range necessitated the use of proper ear protection. This just sounds silly, although it is technically correct. The installation of more cell phone towers is intended to make every call clarion. Do I need to say it? No. My cat's clarion mews are that much more pronounced in the bathroom. Possibly, where a mew is closer to a call or a cry. So, we are left with exploiting the phrase "clarion call". I don't typically do phrases, but I'll deign this once. The phrase "lights out" was a clarion call to sleep. Perhaps, just for the juxtaposition of the inference of war v. sleep. Being down by only one run was the clarion call to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Depends on how competitive you are that it would be akin to war. Plaintiff's counsel's rambling motion for summary judgment was the clarion call to write an opposition that would show him for the arrant idiot that he was. Yes!

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