If anyone reading this for some reason decides to write this kind of blog--and feel free, you poor misguided fool--here's a little clue that you've hit upon a word you should write about. First, you find yourself thinking about it in the middle of the night, and second, you start finding reasons why you should not post about it. Such reasons are usually ignoble.
I've used the word polemic, of course. Well, at least I've read it, and thought I could use it in a sentence if pressed. Polemic has something to do with argument--or an argument, at any rate. If I said, "I don't mean to be polemical", as I almost did recently, before I thought better of it, I would have meant, something like, I don't mean to be divisive, or maybe argumentative. But as usual, the more I think about it, the less I know. Does polemical really mean what I think it does? And where does it come from?
The thought I had in the middle of the night was: is it related to pole? Could it really be as simple as that? Because before that, I have to admit I hadn't a clue. And maybe I still don't. Let's find out...
Well, my understanding of the word is basically right, but my etymology was, in fact, too easy. Polemic, according to the Free Dictionary, means 'a controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific position or doctrine'. Okay, so far, so good. But it has nothing to do with poles or polar, all that. It comes from through the French polemique (sorry, can't do the accent marks) from the Greek polemikos, meaning 'hostile', which in turn derives from polemos, war.
Funny, it did cross my mind that it might have something to do with the Greek polis, city, or cit-state, which I'd guess it does. But I discounted that idea.
Hmm, I guess I should apologize when I'm being polemical. Good to know.
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