Daily Archives: March 26, 2009


Would it be appropriate to say the experience of opprobrium is as pleasant as having your opposite probed? (Or, as probrium suggests, having a probe in your – oh, right, family readership.) Certainly the word has all the uptightness of probity with none of the redeeming moral character in its referent. If you’re wondering whether it’s related to opposite or probity, the answer is yes and no: yes in the op of opposite, which is from Latin ob “against,” and otherwise no. The pro in opprobrium is the same as in pro bono (the kind of legal favour you might need if you find yourself in opprobrium): “for” or “towards”; the brium comes from a root meaning “bear” and a Latin neuter case ending (and you’d better hope the judge in your case is neutral, given how public opinion is against you). The ten letters of this word give us two o‘s – oh-oh! glaring eyes? – and those two p‘s and a b, which look kind of like two thumbs down, one thumb up (is that a thumb pointing up? ooh…). The double bilabial-plus-r, with the um at the end, in North American speech (with the retroflex r‘s, as opposed to the gentle trills of the more British style) gives it a sound somewhat like a judge making an official cough followed by a throat clearing – and from there, of course, one proceeds to the sentence.