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In a word: parlous

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 

If you are familiar with parlous, you probably read conservative writers, who typically warn that the Republic is in a parlous state. Just as liberals are always looking forward to that bright sunshiny day just over the horizon, conservatives are always looking back to that golden age of virtue from which we have decayed into the present.
Whenever you View With Alarm, from right or left, you will want to have it handy to pair with state
Parlous is a variant of perilous, coming to use from the Old French perillus, ultimately from the Latin periculosus. In the sixteenth century it carried the senses of "keen," "shrewd," "clever," "mischievous," and "malicious," the Oxford English Dictionary informs us. But it also carried the senses of "dangerous," "precarious," "desperate," "hazardous," and "dire" that remain with us. I understand the latter senses in Lydgate's Troyyes Booke: "Ful perlousis to displese hem or disturb."
Example: From Britain's Independent in 2003: "Mr Jones said the parlous state of the transport infrastructure was discouraging overseas investors from coming to the UK."  

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