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Mar 10, 2015
This week’s theme
Poetic forms

This week’s words
clerihew
epigram
cento
limerick
doggerel

Selected Epigrams

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

epigram

PRONUNCIATION:
(EP-i-gram)

MEANING:
noun: A short witty saying, often in verse.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin epigramma, from Greek epigramma, from epigraphein (to write, inscribe), from epi- (upon, after) + graphein (to write). Other words originating from the same root are graphite, paragraph, program, and topography. Earliest documented use: 1552.

NOTES:
According to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.

Here is one from Benjamin Franklin that truly demonstrates the power of a pithy epigram:
Little strokes
Fell great oaks.

USAGE:
“I had never read Martial until I picked up his Selected Epigrams in a new edition with delightfully snarky translations by Susan McLean ... it’s hard to demonstrate the quality of Martial’s wit, since most of his best epigrams are unprintable here.”
Bruce Handy; Humor; The New York Times Book Review; Dec 7, 2014.

A few selected epigrams from the delectable Selected Epigrams:
“Write shorter epigrams” is your advice.
Yet you write nothing, Velox. How concise!

Both judge and lawyer grab what they can get,
so, Sextus, my advice is -- pay your debt.

See more usage examples of epigram in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid. -H.W. Fowler, lexicographer (10 Mar 1858-1933)

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