That’s the Word for It: Amanuensis


The most famous amanuensis in Indian mythology is Lord Ganesh, the scribe who wrote the Ramayana to Vyasa’s dictation.  The word originally comes from the Latin word for slave or within arm’s reach. Tertius was the scribe who composed the Book of Romans to Apostle Paul’s directive. This concept of a scribe who took down important notes developed into what we now call a secretary. The academic connotations of amanuensis refer to the scribe who helps the disabled person or invalid during an examination.

Some examples of this word in literature:

“Every writer is the amanuensis to their characters”
— Lucy Coats

“I first noticed this as a child: too much happiness bored me. If I went for a walk on a sunny morning and began to experience an increasing sense of sheer joy, there came a point at which I grew tired of it and deliberately brought my mind back down to earth. Thinking about this later I always found it difficult to understand why I wanted that happiness to come to an end. Now the solution is obvious. When we experience a sudden insight we want to grasp it, to turn it into words. But the left brain is like an amanuensis who has to take everything down in longhand. If the intuitions come too fast he wants to shout, ‘Slow down, slow down!’ And if the speaker refuses to slow down he throws down his pen in disgust.”
— Colin Wilson (Beyond the Occult: Twenty Years’ Research into the Paranormal)



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