Words: nous, n. and v.

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"A. L. ROWSE / Could display a certain nous, / But was shady / Over the Dark Lady." The clerihew, that form which came to the young E. C. Bentley out of the blue, makes for concise biography, although Rowse's shade doubtless splutters over this one of my devising.

As for nous (admittedly not a perfect rhyme), it is Greek not simply for mind but pure thought, in which sense it was first used in the 17th century with reference to the likes of Plato and Plotinus. By the early 19th century it had acquired more than a patina of colloquial badinage, a handy rhyme for house or mouse - although, in such cases, Pope and Byron continued to spell it in Greek letters. It remains peculiarly British, but even here is rarely used as a verb for understand.