Odd Words: Ablegate

Cardinal George Pell Without AblegateAfter the first page of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition, I thought these Odd Words posts would be easy! (Well, not easy; creating the definitions with all the odd characters is actually rather hard.) But then I flipped the page and there were only two words I didn’t know.

The one I didn’t go for was “abulia” which is a mental disorder characterized by a loss of willpower. But that one hits a little too close to home. Also, I don’t really see it as a disorder. Schopenhauer would doubtless have called it a rational response to the absurdity of existence. I work obsessively, and that strikes me as far more of a disorder. So let us say no more about it.

Today’s word, as you may have guessed, has something to do with the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, I could find no pictures of an actual ablegate. So we are stuck with Cardinal George Pell. What’s important about the image is what it doesn’t contain.

Ab·le·gate  noun  \ab’-lə-gət\

1. a papal envoy to newly appointed cardinals or civil dignitaries.

Date: early 19th century.

Origin: it could be from the French word ablégat or the Latin ablegāre. As far as I know, both these words mean “ablegate.”

Example: It turns out that Francis was upset not because he gets yanked on day in and day out by people looking for a quick blessing, but because this particular puller almost knocked the supreme pontiff onto a wheelchair-bound man during an open-air mass in Morella, Mexico. I guess you could call the whole thing a dis-ablegate! (Papal pun!)Lindsey Ellefson

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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