By David Anderson
Paronomasia is my word for today. It comes from an ancient proverb of which one observer wrote, “If you fail, and succumb to anxiety or danger, instead of rising to meet the emergency, then you are but a weakling or a coward, and the strength which you seemed to possess and of which you boasted, perhaps, is nothing worth.”
The specific proverb goes like this: “If you falter in a time of adversity – ????? (tsarah), how small – ???(tsar), is your strength!”
“Adversity” and “small” are placed in contrast to one-another as a play on words, a pun, or paronomasia – ‘para’ meaning ‘alongside’ and ‘nomasia’ – ‘to name.’
The whole intent of this literary device is to reinforce a main subject. And here that main subject would be great courage – required and manifested in great crisis.
But how will you know you’ll be one to be counted on when the pressure is up and the chips are down?
To answer this question Gordon Brown wrote the book “Courage,” subtitled, “Portraits of bravery in the service of great causes.” Fascinated by men and women of courage, Brown wanted to know “what separated these people of courage from the rest of us”?
Why did they choose “to act when others stood by and made sacrifices that were worthwhile and noble”?
From his review of their no-small (tsar) strength in time of no-small adversity (tsarah), this is what Brown concluded:
“Social disapproval, danger, physical pain, and even the risk of death mattered far less to them than personal belief and moral purpose. Quite simply, they seemed to be driven and sustained by higher ideals.”
Their lives were “an expression of both strength of character and strength of belief.”
Plain and simple.
“Both strength of character and strength of belief.”
That’s how you know if you have what it takes.