Axion kai dikaion se hymnein ...; Dignum et iustum est ... Hos alethos axion estin kai dikaion, prepon te kai opheilomenon ... Alethos gar axion esti kai dikaion ... Thus begin the Eucharistic Prayers in (respectively) the rites of S John Chrrysostom; of the Mozarabic Rite; of the Rites of S James and S Mark.
In our dear Roman Rite, Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare ...
And, for us of the Anglican liturgical heritage, It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty ...
Curiously, "vere" is not used (according to Sr Ellebracht's data) in the Roman collects. Perhaps such superlatives are indeed best kept for the moment the Priest approaches the Mysterium tremendum. Or as the Paschal Deacon gets launched into his Exsultet.
Nasty old Zwinglian though he was, as a composer of liturgical formulae Cranmer so often seems to feel the tug of earlier, and Latin Catholic, formulae. (G J Cuming, in his A History of Anglican Liturgy, is particularly sensitive to this.) So, faced with translating Vere dignum et iustum est, the dominating echo of the Latin took over, and Cranmer wrote It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty ...
For many of us, hearing the vicar intoning these words to their ancient melodies will be one of our earliest churchy memories. Only later will it have dawned upon us that very here must function as an adverb synonymous with verily, truly.
But we live in an age hostile to such language. vere disappears from most 'modern' translations. And now it is, finally, disappearing also from our vernacular. When did you last hear it used? "It's very sunny today"?
No, learned reader. You, as a modern man or woman, speaking modern English, will say "It's incredibly sunny today".
"This newspaper report is Incredibly Ordinary". Language is such fun, isn't it?
I can't prove this, but my impression is that the terminal decline in the use of very coincides with the Pandemic. We had so many superlatives offering themselves to us ... superlatives about the new and terrifying disease itself; superlatives about its social consequences; superlatives about the heroes and heroines, in the medical professions, who struggled in combat with the malady ...
That is when it no longer ... somehow ... seemed adequate to say that the Vindaloo was very hot; we only felt we had said enough if it was incredibly hot. Politicians were no longer allowed to repose in an understated category of the very corrupt ...
No? You think I'm being silly yet again? Try listening to some jounalists, and doing a count.
I'm not suggesting we can or should do anything about this.
But when you hear the Vicaress saying in Church It is incredibly meet, right, and our bounden duty ... , please remember that it was this blog that gave you the news first. When the Cathedral Dean prints at the head of his notepaper The Incredibly Reverend Frances Arabin ... nuff said ...
(Did I hear somebody murmur hyperbole? How incredibly pretentious ...)
I remember hearing the excitable astronomer Patrick Moore describing some great cosmic event as so incredible it was almost unbelievable,
Ancillary to this interesting discussion of the disappearance of "very" is the equally dull and lazy disappearance of many English adverbs: adjectives (for some mysterious reason) now doing the double duty of modifiers for verbs and other adjectives. Is it part of a misbegotten individualism that mindlessly maintains that rules no longer apply to anything---especially language, that determining element of culture---or of a darker "project" to reconfigure everything and everyone for the "brave, new world" of the neo-Marxist utopia? When that most intimate and civilizing element of culture which language is can be manipulated at will, then manipulation of persons and populations is made much more achievable. The insane fuss about gender pronouns is symptomatic of this---and George Orwell's incisive essay "Politics and the English Language" is possibly the best "manual" for understanding the ominous forces at work in our midst.
That is odd. We still use and overuse "very" and "really" on this side of the pond. It would have to be pretty incredible, for me to call something incredible.
According to Google Books Ngram Viewer, the incidence of "very" has declined steadily since 1800. It reached its nadir in 1995, since which time it has increased slightly:
Surely 'vere' is not some hyperbolic stress (i.e. not 'truly' in its sense of 'extremely' or 'very') but instead an elegant Roman rhetorical 'Quite so!' to mark the celebrant's repetition of the altar servers' response that has that moment been said or sung:
V. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro
R. Dignum et justum est!
The celebrant immediately picks up the latter phrase and follows it with the Preface, (rather like a virtuoso composer taking a brief melody offered by the audience and turning it into an extensive composition).So here 'vere' means 'In truth, it is worthy...' etc. Or in modern slang 'You're absolutely bang on the money there!'
Speaking of great cosmic events, the word "impact," once reserved for meteors crashing into Earth or maybe emergency airplane landings, is now used more or less as a synonym for "affect." Another one is "stunning," once something similar to being smacked on the head, now means "attractive." Soon we're going to need another layer of hyperbolic words to compensate, "mega-ultra-impactful..." I think this is driven by the growth of advertising. You have to "sell" everything now, you can't just state it. I've noticed this in business contexts where there isn't even a need to sell something, e.g. in describing a third-party product that could be utilized (there is no financial incentive to do so), there is still this apparent need to "create excitement" rather than simply recommending the thing objectively.
I do still hear "very" used quite commonly, and use it myself, but I think its force is diminishing. That's why there is a growing tendency to reach for a more emphatic intensifiers like "incredibly". It's analogous to the way some people feel it's no longer adequate to promise that they will give "100%" commitment to some cause or task, and so assert that they will deliver "110%" or an even greater mathematically absurd hyperbole.
This whole discussion has been incredibly and stunningly impactful :)
Some words do lose their original force over time. I was reading a history of the French language which noted that the verb gêner once meant "to torture". It now means "to bother." It reminds me of Monty Python's ineffectual Spanish Inquisition.
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