Word of the Week! Comity

Senator John WarnerProfessor Joe Hoyle in Richmond’s School of Business nominated this word, noting that in a column about the death of former Virginia Senator John Warner, “the journalist used patrician, mien, stentorian, and comity in a single sentence.  For newspapers today, I thought that was mighty impressive. ”

As do I. Warner earned all those adjectives, but comity above all. He was a man whose long career exemplified comity, which The OED defines as “Courtesy, civility, urbanity; kindly and considerate behaviour towards others.”

We could use more comity, its first usage noted in the 16th Century, in our angry modern times.

Somewhere around here I have a letter Warner (or at least his staff) wrote to me about his decision not to support funding for the International Space Station. I strongly wanted it built, and in my letter I said that Warner would no longer have my vote unless he supported a robust program of human-crewed space exploration (I’m as big a zealot as Elon Musk for settling the Solar System beyond Earth).  Warner’s reply was so temperate, so reasoned, so full of comity in admitting that our disagreement could be civil that I did pull a lever for him once more, in 1996. My wife voted for Mark Warner in the election, another Senator I greatly admire today. We still joke about our two-Warner household.

I chose Joe’s pick because we begin a school year after a great deal of strife on campus over institutional racism, the pandemic, and more. Perhaps it’s a vain hope, even a fool’s hope, that like John Warner, we can learn to reach across the divides between us to hear each other’s stories, even to agree to disagree.

Now for an entry on “stentorian.” That’s a word I have long wanted to cover. If you have words or metaphors to share, contact me by e-mail (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.

See all of our Metaphors of the Month here and Words of the Week here.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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