More on petrification

July 16, 2008

Although it was used as early as the 13th Century (according to the OED), the word ‘petrify’ appears to strong effect in John Florio’s Queen Anna’s New World of Words (1611) and Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656), and is interesting when considered in a specifically seventeenth century context.

The word also appeared in T. E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew (1699), which glossed the vocabulary of ‘gipsies, beggers, thieves, cheats, etc.’

The concept of hardening and calcifying appears in Ralph Cudworth’s The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), where he quotes from Epictetus, who describes a man opposed to evident truths as ‘petrified’. This appears in Epictetus’s chapter ‘Against the academics,’ in which he writes that ‘most of us are afraid of mortification of the body, and would contrive all means to avoid such a thing, but we care not about the soul’s mortification.’

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