Word of the Day: aspersion
origin: from Latin "aspergere", to sprinkle
1. An unfavorable or damaging remark; slander.
"A minute of dissent shall be couched in temperate and decorous
language and shall not refer to any discussion in the Select
Committee nor cast aspersion on the Committee. "
--Rules of Conduct for the Parliament of India, Chapter XXVI
"My point here is not to cast aspersion on Keown's work, which is an
important contribution to the study of Buddhist ethics. I wish to
emphasize that the use of a virtue ethics model does not
necessarily simply an adherence to Neo-Aristoteleanism."
--Professor Georges Dreyfus, "Meditation as Ethical"
2. A sprinking, especially with holy water.
"No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow: but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed"
--William Shakespeare, "The Tempest" (act IV, scene I)
It is interesting that the two meanings of "aspersion" seem somewhat opposed.
Ambrose Bierce commented on the Catholic custom of Baptism in
"The Devil's Dictionary", and provided us with some poetry as well:
"[Baptism is] a sacred rite of such efficacy that he who finds himself
in heaven without having undergone it will be unhappy forever. It is
performed with water in two ways - by immersion, or plunging, and by
aspersion, or sprinkling:
But whether the plan of immersion
Is better than simple aspersion
Let those immersed
And those aspersed
Decide by the Authorized Version,
And by matching their agues tertian."
The word is often used in the phrase "to cast aspersions (plural)":
"I was hardly in a position to cast aspersions on another man."
--Thomas Berger "Little Big Man"
Some have argued that this usage is preferable to the equally common use
of the singular in the phrase "to cast aspersion" (see usage examples in
the main entry above).
Publish Date: 01/20/2011