I know this is from a while ago, but I haven’t been able to fit it into posting just yet. It’s still worthwhile. Another word of the day, for your consideration:

Word of the Day for Monday, September 6, 2010

rubric \ROO-brik\, noun:

1. A title, heading, or the like, written or printed in red or otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
2. A direction for the conduct of divine service.
3. Any established mode of conduct or procedure.

In our office, we have a file of rubrics The New Yorker has used in its eighty-five-year history-Annals of Exploration, Letter from Saigon, Yachts and Yachtsmen. It can be a helpful list.
— Amy Davidson, “About a Nutshell,” Close Read blog, http://www.newyorker.com, August 2010.

Under the “best of category” rubric, Bedell’s 2008 cabernet franc ($30) was voted the state’s best red.
— Howard G. Goldberg, “And the Award Winner Is …,” Long Island Vines blog, New York Times, August 2010.

Rubric’s origin relates to its color; the source is the Latin rubrica, “red ocher.”

I really like this word because it’s a dear and familiar word to those who study the liturgy. Rubrics are the instructions on how to conduct the service, printed in hymnals & the like. “Say the black, do the red” is a common slogan among the liturgically minded. (i.e., don’t interject all sorts of unnecessary commentary or banter into the way you conduct the service, because that’s neither helpful nor necessary. Just say what’s printed on the page and do what it tells you. It can also be used as a kind of shorthand for the idea that worship should not focus on the person of the pastor or the leader, but on the Lord who is present and is bestowing His gifts on us.) Another way to say it is, “Rubrics are red, not read” — the pastor need not “narrate” the people through the service, as this is a waste of time and, again, unnecessary. Teachers know and use the word, too, as it can also refer to a chart or checklist used for grading essays or other assignments. I remember my wife using it often while she was still teaching college English.

Okay, so the word’s origin comes from the red color the directions for conducting the service were written in, but why did they used red ink? The Catholic Encyclopedia online has a helpful explanation:

Among the ancients, according to Columella, Vitruvius, and Pliny, the word rubrica, rubric, signified the red earth used by carpenters to mark on wood the line to follow in cutting it; according to Juvenal the same name was applied to the red titles under which the jurisconsults arranged the announcements of laws. Soon the red colour, at first used exclusively for writing the titles, passed to the indications or remarks made on a given text. This custom was adopted in liturgical collections to distinguish from the formulæ of the prayers the instructions and indications which should regulate their recitation, so that the word rubric has become the consecrated term for the rules concerning Divine service or the administration of the sacraments. Gavanti said that the word appeared for the first time in this sense in the Roman Breviary printed at Venice in 1550, but it is found in manuscripts, of the fourteenth century, such as 4397 of the Vatican Library, fol. 227-28; see also the fifteenth-century “Ordo Romanus” of Peter Amelius.

You can read more about rubrics in the rest of the article, here.

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