Sunday, November 7, 2010

Word corner - antidisestablishmentarianism

At 28 letters, antidisestablishmentarianism is commonly thought to be the longest word in the English language (although apparently it has its competitors). It is not, however, the longest word in Britain, that distinction going to the name (in Welsh) of a village in Wales usually referred to simply as LLanfair P.G..Which is understandable given its full name of, I think, 58 letters.

To understand what antidisestablishmentarianism means, we need to break it down into its component parts.


anti negative prefix meaning against
dis another negative prefix, here meaning something like undo
establish the Church of England is established as the state religion by law
ment suffix to create an abstract noun from establish
arian a second suffix - someone who believes in this
ism a third suffix - the belief system, movement

Now look at the following article and matching exercise.

In a nutshell, this was a movement in the nineteenth century by conservatives (who wanted to keep the position of the Church of England as the official state religion) against the radicals, who wanted to disestablish the Church of England, in other words, to separate the Church from the State.
Disestablishment wasn’t so much a campaign for religious freedom for other religious groups such as the Catholics or the Jews, as an internal argument within English protestantism, between ‘Church’ and ‘Chapel’. To understand this we need to go back a bit in history.

When Henry VIII broke with Rome, he didn’t consider himself to be breaking with Catholicism, although some of his leading churchmen, such as Archbishop Cranmer, were very keen on the new ‘reformed’ religion, which in England largely meant Lutheranism. The reformation in England was therefore more of a gradual process than a revolution, and at first took over the structures of the old church, with its archbishops, bishops and priests more or less intact. It was also as much political as religious. Firstly the break with Rome meant that the monarch was now the head of the Church in England. Secondly, the dissolution of the monasteries and the granting or selling of former church lands to the gentry, meant that the ruling class had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. These factors resulted in a church which embraced quite a wide range of religious opinions, from almost-Catholics to almost-Calvinists. For this reason it has been traditionally referred to as a ‘broad church’.

But not wide enough for some. As early as the reign of Elizabeth I, some Calvinist protestants had wanted to separate from the Church of England, but the monarchy wanted only one (state) religion, and wouldn’t let them. These people were known as separatists or dissenters. Their persecution eventually led to the sailing of the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ to North America aboard the Mayflower. They founded the settlement of New Plymouth, in present day Massachusetts, in 1620, and their quest for religious freedom in the new continent became a symbol of both freedom of conscience and Christian ideals in what was to later be the United States.

At the time of the English Revolution in the mid-17th century, the situation changed, and for a while the Puritans gained the upper hand.They were closer to Calvinism, against the existence of bishops, and in favour of a purer, simpler religious life. But with the return of the monarchy in the person of Charles II, the pendulum swung back and the bishops were back, in all their pomp and circumstance. The Church of England became increasingly identified with the landed classes, the aristocracy.

The eighteenth century saw both the agricultural and the industrial revolutions and these threw up new social classes, skilled workers such as printers, and the industrialists to finance and run the new industries. These were to form the backbone of non-conformism: non-Anglican groups of protestants, such as Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians and many others. Because they generally believed in a more direct personal relationship with God their religion was usually more bible-based and often stricter than the C. of E. But because they had dispensed with bishops etc. they ran their organisations themselves; there was much less of a divide between clergy and lay people. Some historians have seen in this early self-organisation the seeds of democracy in England, others the beginnings of the English socialist tradition and others still, the birthplace of capitalism.

These religious groups were called ‘Chapel’ to distinguish them from ‘Church’: the Church of England. And so you have the division between ‘Church’ and ‘Chapel’, and the resulting debate over disestablishmentarianism.

And in case you're wondering, the antidisestablishmentarians won. The Church of England is still the established religion of England, with the Queen at its head.

Match the words with their definitions

Click and drop - click on a word or expression on the right ( abc etc - in grey ) and then on its corresponding box( 123 etc ). If you change your mind just repeat the process.

1. in a nutshella)king or queen
2. dissolution of the monasteriesb)ordinary members of the Church, who are not priests or full-time officers
3. monarchc)priests, bishops etc, full-time officers of the Church
4. vested interestd)people who disagree with an established belief system or viewpoint
5. the status quoe)on a ship
6. embracedf)a long and difficult search for something, or an attempt to achieve something difficult
7. dissentersg)the present position, the established order of things
8. aboardh)using as few words as possible
9. questi)colourful, formal ceremony
10. pomp and circumstancej)included
11. clergyk)a strong personal or financial involvement in something which you could get an advantage from
12. lay peoplel)the forced closing of religious houses and the taking of church lands by the state




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