Tag Archives: harumphspices

harumphspex

We know what a haruspex is, right? Well, if you don’t, you can read my word tasting note on it (from 2009), but in short it’s someone who does divination by reading entrails. They sacrifice a bird or sheep or other critter, cut it open, and look at its guts, and somehow, by seeing the state of them, make determinations about something in the future: the weather, someone’s health, or some similar outcome.

And we know what harumph is, right? Originally it’s onomatopoeia for clearing the throat, but in established usage it is, as Wiktionary puts it, “an expression of disdain, disbelief, protest, or dismissal.” It’s most typically associated with stodgy old people.

Put them together and we get harumphspex: someone who makes harumphing statements about the future. Not just “Kids these days!” and “Get off my lawn!” but prescriptions for the proper education of the youth – which is to say, the education of the youth in the things the harumphspex thinks proper. 

Harumphspices (that’s the plural of harumphspex, by analogy with haruspices, and the spices is said not like “spices” but like “spissies”) believe that impressionable young minds need to be challenged by being taught the prejudices that their grandparents learned in their youth. They believe that it is crucial that children exposed to “modern,” “liberal” ideas also get the benefit of the “full spectrum” of viewpoints – though if the children are in fact being exposed principally to the same ideas the harumphspices grew up with, you will not see them insisting on bringing in “modern,” “liberal” ideas for the sake of exposure to the full spectrum. 

And of course along with these prescriptions are predictions: the degradation and ultimate destruction of society if their dire warnings are not heeded. But they get their view of the future not from the entrails of animals but from their own disgruntlements. They do not want to make sacrifices, so they just read their own gut feelings, the rumblings in their bellies, which are in reality a borborygmus caused by a dwindling ability to stomach anything new. 

We hear their erumpent harumphing quite often in the world of words; few things are subject to such petulant jeremiads as the supposed decline of grammar into barbarism. But society has many aspects, changing at various speeds, so harumphspices have ample avenues to practice their specious harumphspicy. They raise their noses and proclaim they smell the air of decay… but it’s always just the miasmal effusions of their own dyspepsia.