On the moral adjective base (and its derived adverbial basely), with a note on its occurrence in Sacred Harp music (in Leander 71 and Confidence 270), setting up the, um, basis for a future posting on interpreting a Daily Jocks underwear ad with double meaning (moral and anatomical).

Appearances in the 1991 Sacred Harp:

Leander 71: My soul forsakes her vain delight / And bids the world farewell; / Base as the dirt beneath the feet / And mischievous as hell. [words by Isaac Watts] [note: the sense of mischief in this passage is not the playful sense now current, but is, roughly, ‘misfortune, harm, trouble’]

Confidence 270: But shall I therefore let Him go / And basely to the tempter yield? / No, in the strength of Jesus, no! / I never will give up my shield. [words by Charles Wesley]

Confidence I’ve already posted on, in a 12/27/12 posting “Confidence and Bear Creek”, with the music for Confidence and links to four singings of it. Now, Leander:

Four singings of 71 that you can watch:

Michiana singing 2012, viewable here

Missouri State Convention 2014, viewable here

4th Poland Sacred Harp Convention 2015, viewable here (not any of the Polands in New York State, but the country in eastern Europe)

Bremen (Germany) all-day sing 2012, viewable here

The various lexical items base. First, the

noun and verb base ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French, from Latin basis ‘base, pedestal,’ from Greek.

with the related items basis, basic, basal, and the element basi- ‘a base or basis’. From Michael Quinion’s affixes site:

In plants, growth or development that is basipetal (Latin petus, seeking) [cf. centripetal] is towards the base or point of attachment; something basifixed is attached at or near the base. In medicine basioccipital refers to the base of the occiput, the back of the head; the adjective basilar refers to something situated at the base of a part of the body, especially of the skull, or of the organ of Corti in the ear. A basilect [cf. acrolect and mesolect] is a less prestigious dialect or variety of a particular language.

Basilisk and basilica, on the other hand, derive from Greek basileus, king.

Compare the noun fundament:

1 the foundation or basis of something. 2 humorous a person’s buttocks.

with the related adj. and noun fundamental.

In contrast to these bas- words, there’s the moral adjective base. From NOAD2

(of a person or a person’s actions or feelings) without moral principles; ignoble: the electorate’s baser instincts of greed and selfishness | we hope his motives are nothing so base as money. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French bas, from medieval Latin bassus ‘short’ (found in classical Latin as a cognomen). The senses in late Middle English included ‘low, short’ and ‘of inferior quality’; from the latter arose a sense ‘low on the social scale, menial,’ and hence (mid 16th century) ‘reprehensibly cowardly, selfish, or mean.’

Note its occurrence in the compound adj. baseborn: archaic of low birth or origin; illegitimate.

A bonus: the noun bass. From NOAD2:

the lowest adult male singing voice. ORIGIN late Middle English: alteration of base ‘low, short’, influenced by [Italian] basso.

Note that the ‘bottom’ sense of the noun base and the ‘low’ sense of the adjective base are quite close to one another.

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