peroration, perorate

I’m sure you have on some occasion experienced a persistent oratorical perambulation, some pertinacious, pervicacious, perhaps puerile or even purulent rotation of irate or Ruritanian hortatory, horologically imperious: a proration of perhaps a picomole of pure rationality over an hour’s duration, an operation impressing an over-important prerogative…

Somehow, this word has always had a feel for me of a quasi-aimless wandering over a broad deserted area, like an ant on a church pew that you’re watching while the person in the pulpit drones on and on… Or, of course, of an extended rant, what with the repeated /r/ sound that echoes what is often used to represent ranting or crowd noise, “rawrawrawrawr.” The word may start crisp with the pop of the /p/, but after that it just drones, with a little “sh” in it that fails to silence it.

The form seems even to suggest that to perorate is to make peror, whatever that is (not superior, that’s for sure). But actually, as you have likely spotted, it’s per + oration. The per in this case is the one that means ‘through, thoroughly, to the end, complete’; in Latin a peroratio was the summation of a speech, but in English it’s a speech that Just. Won’t. Stop. It can be a strongly persuasive one, but when you perorate, you are the president of the not-shut-up club. It might almost seem to be a shortened version of hyperoration, but it’s not – and why would anyone shorten a word for that?

Needless to say, these words have filled a space in English for a long time: peroration since the 1400s and perorate since at least the 1600s. They’re not common now, but they certainly have value, in particular in politics. But I would rather forget politics, which lately is going to the dogs; I’d prefer to go to the cats, and wrap myself up in a purr oration.

One response to “peroration, perorate

  1. I always thought that a peroration was the last part of speech, the “Thank God” part.

    But I see it has come to mean the whole, bloody, endless speech itself.

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