The previous post dealt with auspiciososo/auspicious, an adjective based on the Latin noun auspex, with stem auspic-, that meant, in the words of Lewis and Short’s A Latin Dictionary, ‘ a bird inspector, bird-seer, i. e. one who observes the flight, singing, or feeding of birds, and foretells future events therefrom; an augur, soothsayer, diviner.’ The corresponding abstract noun for the process was auspicium ‘divination by observing the flight of birds, augury from birds,’ which Spanish has taken over as auspicio, and for which the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española gives three definitions:

1. m. agüero.

2. m. Protección, favor.

3. m. pl. Señales prósperas o adversas que en el comienzo de una actividad parecen presagiar su resultado.

The matching English form is auspice, a singular that I don’t ever recall seeing. The 1913 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary gave this first definition of the word: ‘A divining or taking of omens by observing birds; an omen as to an undertaking, drawn from birds; an augury; an omen or sign in general; an indication as to the future.’ The second definition, which has become the most common one, was: ‘Protection; patronage and care; guidance.’ The dictionary went on to note that “In this sense the word is generally plural, auspices; as, under the auspices of the king.” Similarly, Spanish can also use the plural, but whereas the English preposition is always under, an Internet search turns up Spanish examples of con los auspicios de and bajo los auspicios de. It’s not clear to me whether the use of bajo is due to influence from English. It is clear to me that anyone who observes flights of birds from below may need protection from what falls from above.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ceciliag
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 08:47:49

    So auspicious (one of my favourite words) would be derived from the stem auspic as well? so it has to do with birds, their arrival maybe, after the winter? Am I on the right track? c


  2. shoreacres
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 21:12:51

    How ironic that a youtube video titled “Auspice” was showed-cased under the auspices of the Guggenheim. They say this is among “the most unique, innovative, groundbreaking video work being created and distributed online during the past two years.”

    Well, at least it’s an example of the singular “auspice”. It’s singular, all right. 😉


  3. shoreacres
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 09:27:03

    Serendipity strikes again. I happened to be scanning the Drudge Report last night when I noticed Matt Drudge has a personal Twitter feed. I was curious and went over to see what he was interested in. As I scanned his tweets, I noticed this one: Into Eurythmics ‘Julia’ … a masterpiece on seasonal changes and loss, and the magic of nature

    I only know the Eurythmics for “Sweet Dreams”. So, I went to look – and discovered this . In the video comments, there was a mention of vocoder technology. When I went to the Wiki entry for vocoder, it was fascinating, and I suspect the technology was put to use in “Auspice”.

    The other interesting thing is that the Eurythmics’ “Julia” was part of a contentious debate over the soundtrack for the 1984 British film, “1984”. None of this answers the question of the videographer’s intent, but it certainly suggests some intriguing avenues for exploration – and makes the video less odd and more interesting.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 13, 2012 @ 11:34:31

      Happy serendipity, and the fun of the quest when one thing leads to another, and that in turn to another, and so forth. The song “Julia” is new to me: I missed it in 1984. The mention of Big Brother in the album title reminds me of the famous Apple Computer commercial for its new computer that year, the Macintosh. (In late 1985 I bought a used Macintosh 128K, the first model, and have had one Macintosh or another ever since.) Thanks also for the introduction to vocoder technology, which I’ve never heard of. So much to learn….


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 13, 2012 @ 11:37:28

      Oh, and this “Julia” reminds me of the Beatles’ song of the same name on the White Album, written by John Lennon, whose mother had been named Julia.


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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