Posted by: mattcolvin | October 30, 2008


So the quondam Work Research Foundation, a Canadian Neocalvinist thinktank, has changed their name. Problem is, they have changed it to cardus, which is an odd and rare form of the much more normal cardo, from which we get our term “cardinal directions” — i.e. the four points N, S, E, W. The cardo was the main north-south street in the rectilinear grid of an ancient Roman town, intersecting the decumanus at the groma. It’s this urban meaning that WRF doubtless meant to evoke. The problem is, they didn’t pick the more usual form of the word; they picked the form ending in “-us”, which, while more immediately Latin-looking to the English reader, is a fairly rare word — so rare that it didn’t even make it into Lewis and Short’s Latin lexicon.

So they’re not really wrong, as a matter of lexicography. But the problem is this: there is a common word “cardus, and it doesn’t mean “N-S street.” It means, much more commonly, “a thistle.” Is that a clever Neocalvinist double entendre about creation, fall, and redemption? (Gen. 3:18?)



  1. I don’t think those guys were shooting for “thistle.” My pocket dictionary says that is a three-syllable word: carduus. I don’t know enough about the former Work Research Foundation to guess what allusion they were aiming for. I assume the concrete meaning “hinge” is prior to other, more abstract ones. Maybe they imagine they are at the center of the action , or of the discussion.

  2. Not being a Latin scholar, and going with your first suggestion, it seems obvious to me: the thistle is a traditional Scots symbol. The connection between Scotland and Calvinism hardly needs elaboration. 😉

  3. Very simply, Cardo does not sound or look as good as Cardus.

    I very much like the new look and feel of the their website and it is good to see that they are flourishing.

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