Friday, March 13, 2009


hortatory [HôR-tuh-tôr-ē]
adj. urging to some course of conduct or action; giving strong encouragement

[From Latin hortārī ("to exhort; encourage")]

While to exhort can be a rather placid verb meaning "to urge, advise or earnestly caution," its related adjective, hortatory, is often far less calm. Hortatory implies frenzy and action. I associate a hortatory speech with a military commander, exciting his troops to battle ferociously. I picture Adolf Hitler standing before a massive throng in Nuremberg waving his hands madly, urging Germans to do evil deeds.

In his review of A. James Gregor's book, The Two Faces of Janus: Marxism and Facism in the Twentieth Century, for the Hoover Institution, Arnold Beichman qualifies Giovanni Gentile’s fascist writing as that sort of a call to action:
Fascism had its theoreticians, and a distressing number of serious thinkers, the philosopher Martin Heidegger first among them, lent their support. But fascism in actual fact it had no intellectual basis at all, nor did its founders even pretend to have any. Hitler’s ravings in Mein Kampf, Giovanni Gentile’s hortatory article in the Italian Encyclopedia, Mussolini’s boastful balcony speeches, all of these can be described, in the words of Roger Scruton, as "an amalgam of disparate conceptions."

Even though I personally think of hortatory having a martial spirit to it, it can be and is used to qualify any strong encouragement, including urging a student to study harder, telling a congregant to pray more, exhorting a salesman to get out and meet with more customers. In a recent Washington Post article on its business page, hortatory was used in this latter sense, urging people in business to take necessary actions:
The Interactive Advertising Bureau is hosting its annual conference at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Fl. While the setting and the weather are both pleasant, the gathering is occurring during the most pessimistic period for the ad industry as a whole in a decade, if not 60 years. So, in addition to the celebratory awards presentations and a few hortatory words from keynote speakers like Wenda Harris Millard, the organization also had a few house-keeping announcements.

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