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Feb 10, 2003
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“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.” ~Beecher
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with Anu Garg

Government is a good thing, mostly. Religion is perhaps a good thing too, most of the time. But when the two mix, it's a recipe for disaster (from Latin dis- + -aster, literally unfavorable stars). The story of Canossa is a small slice of the long history of such mix-ups. The metaphorical sense of today's term Canossa comes from the name of a ruined castle in Canossa village in north-central Italy. It was the site of penance by Holy Roman emperor Henry IV before Pope Gregory VII in January 1077 for calling him a false monk. The emperor crossed the Alps in the middle of winter to see the Pope, who was a guest of Matilda, countess of Tuscany, at the castle. It's said that Henry stood outside the castle barefoot in snow for three days It was this incident that inspired German chancellor Bismarck to later coin the phrase "Nach Canossa gehen wir nicht" (We're not going to Canossa) during Kulturkampf.

This week's AWAD features toponyms or words derived from place names.


(kuh-NOS-uh, Italian: kah-NOS-sah) Pronunciation

noun: A place of humiliation or penance. Mostly used in the form "go to Canossa": to humble or humiliate oneself, to eat humble pie.

From the name of a castle in Canossa, a village in Italy, where Holy Roman emperor Henry IV sought pardon before Pope Gregory VII in 1077.

"If I were to believe what you do about the policies of Russia there would be no way out for me but to crawl to Canossa ... "
Edward S. Shapiro; Letters of Sidney Hook; M.E. Sharpe, 1995.

"Having seen his famously revered spiritual compass appear this week at President Ezer Weizman's residence, one senior Shas activist was quoted as regretting Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's having `gone to Canossa'."
Amotz Asa-El; Thoughts on Canossa; Jerusalem Post; Jun 4, 1999.


Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

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