Welcome back fans of Latin roots as they relate to English vocabulary words, and great talks about life-changing books, with a focus on great literature! In this series that I'm offering, I am expounding upon books that have made an impression upon myself and many other readers, and the Latin root words inherent in their English titles. My last post saw a thorough explication of Eca's The Relic, a hugely entertaining work by an author who deserves to be much better known. Today I will write concerning The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha, and focus on the etymology of the words "gentleman" and "ingenious," and related SAT vocabulary words:
Gentleman: Originally, if a boy was of gentle birth, he came from a good and wealthy ‘family;’ since he was therefore gentle, or a ‘gentleman,’ he treated others courteously, a meaning which later evolved into being ‘tender,’ which is a courteous way to treat others.
Genteel: A "genteel" person is of "gentle" birth, and thus is supposed to act in a chivalrous fashion, although this certainly was and is not always the case!
Jaunty: Someone from a good ‘family,’ i.e., one of ‘noble’ birth, often acted with a ‘confident air’ due to her or his high social status.
Ingenious: Ingenium—inherent talent, clever device Someone who is "ingenious" has an "inherent talent" in a certain aspect, or is able to "cleverly devise" "ingenious" solutions to thorny problems.
Ingenuous: don't confuse the word "ingenuous," which comes from the Latin Ingenuus—honest, generous, free-born, and "ingenious." One who is "ingenuous" is an "honest, open, candid, or frank" soul, who is completely lacking in guile.
Disingenuous: the opposite of "ingenuous." Especially don't trust the ingenious disingenuous ones...they can have you tied up in knots in no time at all. I would have to say that Iago, Judge Holden (of Blood Meridian) and Satan (of Paradise Lost) fit into this category...and my seventh-grade, green-haired, "you have to do extra credit even if you have a 100% in my class to get an A, because A students all do extra credit" 7th-grade "teacher." OK...I got a B+ in that class because I didn't do extra credit, but, for the record, I had a 100% average. So you can keep on reading my blogs with confidence.
Note that all the above words ultimately stem from the Latin Gigno, gignere, genui, genitum—to bring forth, give birth, produce. Can you see why???
Commentary on The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha
Don Quixote, as Harold Bloom says in Genius, “plays a deep game with reality.” I’m not really sure if he actually believes that the barber’s basin is really the Helm of Mambrino, or if the “peerless” Dulcinea is enchanted (throughout the entire 940 Grossman translated novel, DQ never sees Dulcinea except in her “enchanted” state as a rough peasant girl, and then I was unsure if this was even Aldonza), or if the magical potion to cure all ills really would work, or if the windmills are actually giants, or if the puppets in the play are actually real and must be vanquished because if they aren’t, then the dastardly Moors will seize the Christians. Has he been completely bamboozled by his books on knight errantry, so that he sees a different level of reality than everyone else does, or is he choosing to create his world, irrespective of what everyone else perceives, and thereby forcing them to adopt his world vision? In the Duke’s castle, do he and all his cronies trick him, or does he trick them into playing within the confines of his world? Is Altisidora fooling DQ, or is DQ inveigling her to play along in his world? Does Sancho Panza finally come around to the “sanity” of his master as he becomes governor, playing at that position until he no longer can stand it, simply because he is unable to convince others to play his game, as his master can so easily do? Is that why Sancho gets beat up so often, because DQ is so believable to the point that people are drawn into his madness so that they do indeed begin to see another reality? Or is the Duke and company simply having a lot of fun along the way? How can DQ be so lucid except with regards to knight errantry? Does he not create the last and the greatest knight of them all, living within his own book instead of simply passively writing one, as all other authors would do? And is not that much more effective? Just what kind of a game is he playing? This reminds me in a way of Quantum Mechanics, in the sense that the observer creates reality, and precedes the existence of that reality. If DQ “observes” Dulcinea as peerless, does she not indeed become peerless? If he performs strange acts for her in the mountains, such as doing handstands or cartwheels with no clothes on the lower half of his body, do those acts not justify her unquestionable beauty that is above all others? When Carrasco comes after him twice, has he not transformed him into both the Knight of the Mirrors and the Knight of the White Moon, as has he not become better the second time, as he defeats the greatest knight in the world? Does not the charisma of DQ indeed transmogrify reality, not only of his own vision, but of all others, especially, eventually, of Sancho Panza, who does get his governorship and his highly coveted insula, not to mention his ducados? What else, indeed, could be going on?
I have never laughed so hard as in the first part of this novel; I think that my family thought I was crazy as I was sitting on the porch, guffawing until the tears came, especially when SP is drinking the potion which is supposed to cure his cracked ribs, and only makes him violently throw up. Does SP go through so much and suffer the worst punishments because he doesn’t believe as much as his master does?
This novel is uninterpretable, and is the best that I have ever read in terms of just what Don Quixote is doing with his life. And that brings me to my own life. Can I, too, quixotically, create my own life, and influence those around me in a positive way? Absolutely! Belief is a strong, strong phenomenon, and that which one believes is one’s world, irregardless of “reality,” which, Platonically, is but a shadow, whereas how the mind perceives that reality, how it noetically shapes it, lies at the foundation of one’s world and how one views it; I, also, think that that consciousness can also transform it, but, like Sancho Panza, we will take many knocks along the way until we become the best knight errant of them all, the master of transforming this malleable because perceivable thing called reality…which is the stuff whereby we not only live, but can live happily or sadly. How about creating the former, and if the latter happens along the way, surely it can be interpreted positively, such as an evil enchanter who is hounding one that one cannot foil because they are legion? DQ does make it through all of his trials, never wavering from the code of the knight errant, and survives nicely intact, even though he goes through so many improbable and potentially fatal encounters. Why worry when one cannot control these evil enchanters? Live, try your hardest, don’t take anything personally, endure pain and suffering, and live true to oneself, and one’s reality will be transformed into something glorious.
I feel like I could continue writing about the Don forever, but alas! Evil enchanters pursue me…off to the fight!
Looking for a great edition of Don Quixote? Go no further than Edith Grossman. Her prose is as lucid and as faithful to the Old Spanish as I've seen to date.Fascinated with English vocabulary words? Want to pick them apart into their constituent Greek and Latin roots? Want to know even more SAT and GRE words that come from the Latin root words Gigno, gignere—to bring forth, give birth, produce? Studying hard for the SAT or GRE verbal section, and just can't get a handle on all of those vocabulary words, which are truly legion? Check out www.wordempire.com, where you will find the most comprehensive Greek and Latin roots dictionary available today, and also the most beautiful...it's in full color, and artistically designed. There's even a Greek and Latin roots poster available, which nicely illustrates the full power of what Greek and Latin root words can do for you.