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3 Words Frozen and Thawed

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Chapter Summary

The ostentatious erudition of Rabelais' giants and their entourage is generously nourished by the commonplace tradition conserved in ancient and modern lexicons, miscellanies, and compilations. Rabelais discovered a potent metaphor for the circulation of commonplaces in the exotic yet well documented phenomenon of frozen words. The frozen words that Pantagruel and his companions scrutinize as they approach the confines of the glacial sea have been likened to what linguists call "formes figées " or fixed sayings such as proverbs and other figurative locutions. Panurge initiates the comically sententious conversation by asking to see some of the frozen words, thus betraying a lamentable literalism of the sort that Erasmus labels judaismus. The grammatical parody of Rabelais' council scene can be further assessed in the light of some of the syntactical theories proposed by French Renaissance grammarians.

Keywords: Erasmus labels; French Renaissance grammarians; frozen words; Pantagruel; Rabelais' giants



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