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February 01, 2024


what a terrific poem! thanks.

A terrific poem worthy of Richard Howard's selection. Thank you, Terence. It's Groundhog Day!


Terrific poem, T!

If there ever was a poet, Terence Winch makes the grade. Wonderful, dancing poem with a bite.

Since "terrific" is the gist, a little background from Grammarphobia 2013:

"TERRIFIC" This adjective originally meant “causing terror, terrifying; terrible, frightful; stirring, awe-inspiring; sublime.”

The dictionary’s earliest citation for “terrific” in this sense is from Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), which describes the Serpent in Paradise as a subtle beast “with brazen Eyes And hairie Main terrific.”

In less than a century, Oxford says, “terrific” took on a weakened sense: “Of great size or intensity; excessive; very severe.”

The earliest example of this new usage in the dictionary is from a 1743 translation of Horace’s lyric poetry: “How cou’d … Porphyrion of terrific size … stand against the Warrior-goddess?”

It took another century, according to the OED citations, for “terrific” to take on the modern sense of “an enthusiastic term of commendation: amazing, impressive; excellent, exceedingly good, splendid.”

The first example of this sense is from an advertisement in the Oct. 21, 1871, issue of The Athenaeum, a journal of science and the arts:

“The last lines of the first ballad are simply terrific,—something entirely different to what any English author would dream of, much less put on paper.”

So “terrific” evolved from “terrifying” to “excessive” to “amazing” in a little over two centuries.

Meanwhile, much the same thing happened with “terribly,” the adverbial form of “terrible.” A very negative 15th-century word meaning severely or painfully had evolved by the mid-19th century into a general adverb meaning “very” or “greatly” (as in “greatly amused”).

I completely agree with Steffi Green.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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