this very interesting article on the present state of publishing that I once again came across the phrase 'parlous times'. It comes up every now and again, and it illustrates one of the ways I and I suppose other people deal with unknown words or concepts they run across in a book or article. Maybe it's different for Kindle readers, who apparently have some kind of dictionary function, but I kind of doubt it. I think it's more typical that we simply make our best guess. Sure, it's lazy, but it also shows something about our deductive capacities.
Anyway, for better or worse, I always read 'parlous' as 'perilous'. I know it's a stretch, and I suppose it will turn out to be hugely wrong, but it does more or less work as far as I can tell. Still, it seems unlikely that the two words are the same words, just differently spelled. So what can 'parlous' be? If it doesn't have to do with peril, the closest I can come up with is the French parler, which means 'to speak, talk'. Doesn't seem quite right...
Quelle chance! It is perilous. It's simply the way those 14th century Middle English types contracted the word 'perillous', borrowed from the Old French perillous.
Dangerous, anyway you look at it.
( Oh, yeah, the picture is by James Gillray, a British cartoonist, whose satires of British and French society were published between 1792 and 1910.)
And now, Team Parlous:
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