Clued In (Blogs)

Clued In #23 | Read, rinse, repeat

Mihir Balantrapu  |  11 April 2020

Hey there, and welcome back to Clued In!

Today’s Featured Clue showcases not just a rare word, but also a remarkable abbreviation.

 

The Hindu Cryptic #12,906 | Afterdark | 9 Down

Clue surface: Preamble to verse about writing (5)

Definition: Preamble

Clue types: Containment, abbreviation

Answer: PROEM

Explanation: The letters of POEM (synonym for ‘verse’) are wrapped around (as indicated by ‘about’) the letter R (well-recognised but originally ironic abbreviation for ‘writing’)

 

What’s a ‘proem’, you ask? Well, before we etymologise that word for you, let’s address the more burning question — since when does the word ‘writing’ begin with an ‘R’?!

Ironic it may seem, but writing is one of the famous Three Rs of basic literacy. It seems to have originated circa 1750-1820, when educationists were just discovering alliteration and thought it rather clever to coin and conjoin ‘Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic’.

The exact origin of this usage is hotly contested (no one is willing to take the credit or blame for it, really), and some suspect that this is a crude simplification of an earlier set that went ‘Reading, Reasoning, Reciting, Reckoning’. In the true spirit of a modern-day waste-management aphorism, language is constantly being reduced, reused and recycled, isn’t it?

And now, after this elaborate proem, here’s the actual meaning of the word in question.

 

proem

pronounced: pro-um

noun

— (formal) preface or preamble to a book or speech

Synonyms: preface, preamble, prologue, prelude, opening

Etymology: 14th Century Greek: prooimon  pro (‘before’) + oimē (‘’song)

Usage: “Before you delve into my poem, do dwell on my proem,” said the overanxious bard.

 

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