Wacky Word Wednesday

Accismus – Wacky Word Wednesday

It’s the first Wednesday of the first month of a new (Gregorian) year, so what else would we be gearing up for except Wacky Word Wednesday? To all our readers out there, welcome back for this weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

To dive right in, here’s the definition of today’s word, accismus, from TermWiki.com:

quo top

ac·cis·mus

[ak-sizmuhs]

-noun

Coyness; feigning disinterest in something while actually desiring it

quo botAccismus

From the Greek akkismos, meaning “prudery,” and derived from akkizesthai, which means “to feign ignorance,” this word seems like a mouthful (okay, it is a mouthful), but it’s one of those words that we can all relate to, unbeknownst to us until someone brings it up.

To start with, first consider the term sour grapes. Aesop’s Fables, a world-renowned collection of short stories that integrate a lesson on morals into the plot, includes stories such as “The Tortoise and the Hare”, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, etc. Another famous story in this list of didactic tales is “The Fox and the Grapes”. In this short story, the protagonist fox is hungry and enticed by some grapes hanging from a vine high above him. He jumps and leaps as high as he can, but cannot reach the grapes. After many attempts, he finally turns away in disgust and says “Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.”

Thus the term sour grapes came to describe a situation where an individual is disappointed when something does not turn out as expected or desired, but decides to mask this disappointment with feigned anger or bitterness.

Accismus is related to sour grapes, but instead of reacting with hostility, accismus describes a situation where an individual coyly or disingenuously rejects an offer that he or she is actually interested in.  Another definition we found for accismus is “irony involving insincere modesty,” which sums it up nicely.  The ironic thing about irony is that most people tend to misuse it. In this situation, irony is used as a verbal rhetorical device, which is fancy way of describing how people say the opposite of what they actually mean.

To further bolster your understanding of both accismus and sour grapes, here are some examples (listed respectively):

  • As he presented her with the diamond necklace, Veronica gasped and, after a moment’s falter, said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly accept such a gift…”
  • As the crowd roared with enthusiasm when Julie was awarded with the trophy, Laurie said to Luke, “Oh, anybody with two left feet could’ve won! Besides, the judges are biased. They’ve known her for years!”

Did you finish reading to the end of this entry? If not, no matter—we don’t want you as a reader anyway. So there!

(How’s that for sour grapes?) 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Accismus – Wacky Word Wednesday

  1. For whatever reason, I find it impossible to remember the correct meaning and usage of sour grapes. This article has explained it excellently, but in a few minutes I’ll have forgotten it.

    Hmph! Not like I wanted to remember it anyway!

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