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Summary Details


Query:   ivory tower
Author:  Misha Becker
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Historical Linguistics

Summary:   I RECENTLY ASKED ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF THE TERM 'IVORY TOWER' REFERRING TO
ACADEMIA AND WHETHER IT ALWAYS HAD A NEGATIVE CONNOTATION. I THANK THE
FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR RESPONDING:

MARC PICARD
VICTORIA FROMKIN
MARIANNE AJANA
ISRAEL COHEN
ROBERT A. STEWART
CLAUDIA PLAIMAUER
KATRIN LEHMANN
AND ROBERT STOCKWELL (UCLA)

THE FOLLOWING REFERENCES WERE SUGGESTED OR CITED:

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS (FACTS ON FILE, 1987).
WILLIAM AND MARY MORRIS: _MORRIS DICTIONARY OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS_
HARPER & ROW PUBL., 1977
RANDOM HOUSE ONLINE 1992
BREWER'S DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE (11981)

THE TERM 'IVORY TOWER' SEEMS TO COME FROM THE FRENCH 'TOUR D'IVOIRE',
COINED BY THE FRENCH LITERARY CRITIC CHARLES AUGUSTIN SAINTE-BEUVE
(1804-69) IN 1837 TO CHARACTERIZE THE FRENCH POET, NOVELIST AND
DRAMATIST ALFRED VICTOR DE VIGNY (1797-1863), WHO APPARENTLY LED A
VERY ISOLATED LIFE. SAINTE-BEUVE'S USE OF THE TERM IN DESCRIBING DE
VIGNY WAS MEANT IN A POSITIVE WAY. THE TERM ENTERED THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE AROUND THE BEGINNING OF THIS CENTURY.

HERE IS A MODERN ENGLISH DEFINITION:
I'VORY TOW'ER N.
1. A PLACE OR SITUATION REMOTE FROM WORLDLY OR PRACTICAL AFFAIRS:
THE UNIVERSITY AS AN IVORY TOWER.
2. AN ATTITUDE OF ALOOFNESS FROM OR DISDAIN OR DISREGARD FOR WORLDLY
OR PRACTICAL AFFAIRS.
(FROM RANDOM HOUSE 1992)

SOME FURTHER IDEAS ABOUT HOW THE TERM CAME ABOUT:

LL Issue: 8.455
Date Posted: 05-Apr-1997
Original Query: Read original query