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What does "writ respectable" mean?

 
 
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 01:05 am

Context:

The boundary lines between strong agnosticism and weak atheism are blurry, as an interesting Darwin ancedote reveals. At a dinner party with tw atheists in 1881, Darwin asked his guests, "Why do you call yourselves atheists?" saying that he preferred Huxley's word, "agnostic." One of his guests replied that "agnostic was but atheist writ respectable, and atheist was only agnostic writ aggressive."
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Type: Question • Score: 5 • Views: 1,186 • Replies: 9

 
View best answer, chosen by oristarA
McTag
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Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 01:18 am
@oristarA,

Quote:
"agnostic was but atheist writ respectable,


Writ is an older form of "written".

We still use it in the phrase "writ large"

"Writ respectable" means something like "expressed in a respectable/ acceptable manner".
McTag
 
  2  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 03:03 am
@McTag,

I should have mentioned the use of "but" in your example.

Again this is an outdated usage- here it means "nothing but" or "nothing other than".

Nowadays we might substitute "simply".
0 Replies
 
FBM
 
  2  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 03:29 am
"agnostic was but atheist writ respectable..." Roughly, it means that the word "agnostic" was used instead of "atheist" but only because the speaker wanted to sound more respectable. ("Agnostic" is a softer, more 'respectable' position than "atheistic.")

"...and atheist was only agnostic writ aggressive." Here, it means that the word "atheist" was used instead of "agnostic" probably because the speaker wanted to sound more aggressive.

In that quote, the real message is that there's no real difference between atheism and agnosticism. People choose 'agnostic' when they want to sound softer, but use 'atheist' when they want to be more aggressive, even though their real position is the same in both cases.
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oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 09:11 am

Excellent usage! It sounds with an atmosphere of dogged gentility.
Thank you both.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 11:13 am
@McTag,
Quote:
Writ is an older form of "written".


Why do you figure the prescriptivists haven't been all over this one, McTag? Isn't 'written' an abomination that must be stricken from the English language? Smile
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 04:39 pm
@JTT,
I might regret saying this but...I'm not sure what you mean.

"Written" is a standard word in everyday use, is it not. Would you care to expand and elucidate your point?
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 06:05 pm
@McTag,
I was just joking, McTag, and checking to see if you were still alive. I hope you are hale and hearty.
oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2013 10:30 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

I was just joking, McTag, and checking to see if you were still alive. I hope you are hale and hearty.


He's bathed in the halo of life, I believe. Cool
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Mar, 2013 04:33 am
@oristarA,

Too right. Thank you, gentlemen, for your kind concern.
0 Replies
 
 

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