Brown: Greek is Latin, -logy beats -nomy

« previous post | next post »

"Governor 'Moonbeam' Takes on His Critics at Greenbuild", The Dirt (American Society of Landscape Architects, 11/26/2012:

California Governor Jerry Brown, aka Governor “Moonbeam,” took on his many critics at the 2012 Greenbuild in San Francisco, saying the people who originally called him that are “no longer around, while I still am.” To huge laughs, he said “apparently, moonbeams have more durability than other beings.” In a rousing speech designed to rally the green building community, Brown walked the crowd through his profound “eco” philosophy, while also laying out a path for attacking climate change in California and across the U.S.

In Latin, Brown said “eco” means house. As an example, “economy” means “rules of the house.”  “Logos” means “lord, god, or the deep principles or patterns of nature.” So “ecology is more fundamental than economics. Economics sits within ecology. Not the other way around. This means through our economy, we can’t repeal the laws of nature.” Furthermore, humanity “can’t mock the laws of nature or thumb our noses at the climatic system. We have to learn to work with nature.”

This reminds me, not for the first time, of the old Soviet-era Radio Yerevan jokes:

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev won a luxury car at the All-Union Championship in Moscow?

Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all it was not Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev, but Vassili Vassilievich Vassiliev; second, it was not at the All-Union Championship in Moscow, but at a Collective Farm Sports Festival in Smolensk; third, it was not a car, but a bicycle; and fourth he didn't win it, but rather it was stolen from him.

So is it correct that in Latin, economy means "rules of the house"? Well, in principle, yes. But in the first place it's not Latin but rather Greek; and in Greek, οἰκονομία meant "management of a household", from οἶκος "house, not only of built houses, but of any dwelling-place" + νομία "lawfulness".

And is it correct that ecology combines eco- with Logos meaning “lord, god, or the deep principles or patterns of nature” ? Well, the first part of ecology is also from οἶκος, though here the sense seems to be the "dwellings" or environment of all the plants and animals in a region. The second part is the common combining form -logy, which the OED describes as

earlier written -logie, an ending occurring originally in words adapted from Greek words in -λογία (the earliest examples, e.g. theology, having come through French -logie, medieval Latin -logia). These Greek words for the most part are parasynthetic derivatives; in some instances the terminal element is λόγος word, discourse (e.g. in τετραλογία tetralogy, τριλογία trilogy); more commonly it is the root λογ- (ablaut-variant of λεγ-, λέγειν to speak: cf. Logos n.). In the latter case, the ns. in -λογία usually denote the character, action, or department of knowledge proper to the person who is described by an adj. or n. in -λόγος, meaning either ‘(one) who speaks (in a certain way)’, or ‘(one) who treats of (a certain subject)’. Hence the derivatives in -λογία are of two classes, (1) those which have the sense of ‘saying or speaking’, examples of which are the words anglicized as battology, brachylogy, cacology, dittology, eulogy, palillogy, tautology; and (2) names of sciences or departments of study.

So the original meaning of economy is "household management", and the original meaning of ecology is "study of the dwelling (of living things, i.e. their environment and interactions)".

How does "“lord, god, or the deep principles or patterns of nature" come into it? I suppose that it must be a reference to the Hellenistic metaphysics of John 1:1

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

…though the connection of the human and mundane λογ- in -logy to John's divine λόγος is rather like the relationship of κάννα "reed" and κανών "straight rod, bar" to cannon and canon law.

Share:



55 Comments »

  1. Acilius said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 9:43 am

    Someone really should ask the governor what he was thinking. I believe his bachelor's degree from Berkeley is in Classics.

  2. spherical said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    Also, some courageous aide should point out to the good governor that deriving normative statements from etymology is stupid even if the etymology is correct.

  3. Mike G said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    I'll just say it so no one else has to:
    By "Moonbeam's" logic… er… reasoning… er… expressed understanding, "astrology" would be more fundamental than "astronomy." Any takers on that one?

  4. Rick said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    As I remember my philosophy courses from college, "the deep principles or patterns of nature” would not be a particularly bad translation of the word "logos" as used in some Greek philosophy. For instance, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in the article Episteme and Techne , says "Plotinus holds that Nous gives rise to the rational principle (logos) which is responsible for the existence of our universe". The use of "logos" in the book of John is, I was taught, a borrowing of this philosophical meaning of the word. If Brown does have a degree in the Classics, he would likely be familiar with the specialized philosophical meaning of the term.

  5. Vicki said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    Sounds like this is left over from his year at a Jesuit seminary,

  6. Rod Johnson said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    I imagine the Greek/Latin switch was a mistake that a good Jesuit novice and graduate of St. Ignatius High would, on reflection, admit. But the argument about the etymology of "ecology" wasn't, I don't think, intended to be an empirical claim about the modern meaning of the word, but a poetic one. It's just a rhetorical flourish. It's certainly false, but not in a way that makes much sense to be up in arms about. The larger claim, that ecology is more fundamental than economy, isn't something that really rests on an etymological argument.

  7. Len said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    Please do a post on the etymology of words like "philosophy." I've always been told that that it must mean "The love of learning," but surely it means "The learning of love," that is, I suppose, the learning that is an outcome of love. The love of learning would be sophophilia.

  8. Dw said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    Do I detect a hint of sarcasm in the magazine's description of Brown's "profound 'eco' philosophy"? Or am I giving "The Dirt" too much credit?

  9. Dw said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    If you read the article carefully, you'll see that Brown didn't say that "eco" is Latin for house. Instead he claimed, in Latin, that "eco" means "house". He must have said something like "eco domus significat".

  10. Dimitri said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    @Len: unfortunately no. Philosophy (Greek φιλοσοφία) does indeed mean "love of wisdom/knowledge." Thus, in Greek, philobakchos is one who loves wine (Bacchus), philobarbaros is someone who loves foreigners (barbaroi), philobasileus is a friend of the king (basileus), philobiblos is someone who loves books. So a philosophos is someone who loves wisdom, and philosophia is the abstract noun formed from that.

  11. Dimitri said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    @Dw: "eco domus significat"?!? You need to watch the Life of Brian again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIAdHEwiAy8).

  12. Dw said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    @Dimitri: LOL

  13. Rob said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    Do you think it's possible that he actually said "law" rather than "lord"? That might be a slightly more defensible understanding of the -logy ending.

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    No suggestion of blaming the journalist this time? Not that I have complete faith in Gov. Brown's etymological abilities.

  15. Dan Hemmens said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    But the argument about the etymology of "ecology" wasn't, I don't think, intended to be an empirical claim about the modern meaning of the word, but a poetic one.

    I think the complaint here was that, in essence, it was bad poetry.

    The relationship between factual accuracy and rhetorical impact or aesthetic appeal is a constantly shifting one, of course, but to a lot of people that kind of "X comes from a word in Y language meaning Z" isn't so much a poetic illustration of a valid point as a meaningless, factually incorrect non-sequitur.

    It's sort of the equivalent of standing up and saying "The sky is green, blood is green, and dogs are green. Doesn't that tell us that the time has come for us to focus more on green energy?"

  16. Nathan said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:39 am

    @Rob: Jerry Brown is a native Californian. It's not likely that "law" and "lord" could be confused in his pronunciation.

  17. Keith M Ellis said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    A number of years after I studied Homeric and Attic Greek in college (and it turned out that Koine came along for the ride, as I discovered I could easily read most of the NT while Attic and Homeric never ceased to be very difficult for me), my sister, an evangelical, began studying Koine as part of her Bible studies. One day we got into a typical overheated sibling argument when she insisted that λόγος means "word of God".

    Which it does, of course, quite often in the NT. But that this was her principal understanding of it, that she would confidently assert that this was universally what the word meant, just really pushed my buttons because it exemplified the sort of dilettante, sophomoric religious-oriented study that is so blinkered that it is actively harmful. I sputtered that it was one of the most common nouns in the language, with a wide range of meanings, from those implied by the English word logic to those implied by the English word logo, and that the New Testament usage was one that was peculiar (not exceptional, entirely, but unusual) to it.

    This badly flawed Christian-specific experience with λόγος is the reason for Brown's inclusion of "lord, God" in his definition. Except that he even got that wrong, so this was probably secondhand from what was already suspect.

    But, as discussed above, the whole quote is a tour de force of pretentious wrongness — not content with confused etymology and confused understanding of language, leading to a confused, mistaken conclusion, Brown doubles down on it and asserts a logocentric metaphysics. Which I guess is extremely appropriate for someone who is indirectly referencing the classic Greeks and Christian texts. Apparently Brown is a neoplatonist.

  18. A Reader said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    @Len, compounds aren't always entirely consistent within a language. A similar example in English of an agentive compound with the verbal element first is 'pickpocket' – meaning a person who picks pockets, not a pocket for picking.

  19. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

    Parallel with 'philosophy' is 'philology' – 'love of words', and hence the study of language. Hence, confusingly, philology is not an -ology. The word could perfectly well mean 'the study of love', but doesn't.

  20. Henning Makholm said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    Logos is a spectacularly multivalent word, that's for sure.

    Irrelevant tangent: Some time ago I set out to investigate the etymology of "irrational" numbers in mathematics. Whereas "imaginary" numbers do historically come from the fact that there was widespread resistance to using with them, there doesn't seem to have been any such resistance to the irrationals — over the past few thousand years it has at times been in dispute whether the idea of "number" should apply to such things, but essentially no doubt that whatever they are, they are there somehow, and are not particularly connected with unsound thinking — which is what the word "irrational" misleads countless students into thinking.

    I didn't reach any firm conclusion, but I did find out that Euclid used "logos" as the word for ratio, that is, how many times bigger or smaller something is than something else. "Ratio" itself seems to be a Latin calque of "logos" — and also means something like ordered thought — so the semantic contacts between sound reasoning and quotients have at least 1700 years of history. ("Quotient" itself is straightforward, being simply a nouning of "how many times" in Latin).

    Incidentally, Euclid (apparently following Eudoxus) used "logos" even for irrational ratios, and only later did the word "rational" come to mean integer ratios specifically.

  21. Brett said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    @Henning Makholm: Given that the discoverer of the square root of 2's irrationality is purported to have been murdered for upending the mathematical understanding of the times, I think it is reasonable to say that there was significant resistance to irrational numbers.

  22. Keith M Ellis said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

    Incidentally, Euclid (apparently following Eudoxus) used "logos" even for irrational ratios, and only later did the word "rational" come to mean integer ratios specifically.

    Yes, Euclid authoritatively used irrational as meaning "cannot be put into ratio" with the root logos because one of the meanings of logos is "reason, logic", including the mathematical sense.

    This creates an unfortunate confusion about what the English word irrational means with regard to what the word means in the context of irrational numbers.

    I'm not sure what the etymology is for this common English usage, but I'd guess that it originated from Euclid's usage — because, while Euclid certainly does not include these connotations (irrationality as crazy) in his usage, there is both historically within Greek mathematics and, well, just some commonsense intuition something nonsensical both about a) putting different kinds of things into ratio (which the Greeks wouldn't allow) and incommensurability, which is essential to irrational numbers. So, technically, while even for Euclid and certainly for modern mathematicians irrational numbers have nothing to do with irrationality, in a wider context they sort of do. So the waters are muddy about this.

    As you mention, on the whole it's an unfortunate technical usage in the context of contemporary mathematics because it misleads students — the term itself convincing many students that the subject is esoteric and difficult when it is not. And, again as you say, imaginary numbers have the same problem.

    My experience of studying Euclid in this particular respect, as an adult, with prior mathematical education and with concurrent classical Greek language education, was that his use of irrational number was, to me, surprisingly prosaic, just the obvious term for the purpose, without all the connotations it has in English and even given the context of incommensurability and that there is something weird going on underneath irrational numbers.

  23. Keith M Ellis said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    @Brett, that's sort of true, but, as I understand it, the significance of incommensurability and the Pythagoras cult is greatly overstated. By Plato's time, and Euclid was well after him, this was well-known and uncontroversial. It wasn't really mathematically controversial, as even within the context of the Pythagoreans it was a sacred, secret truth, not a point of contention. It's extremely elementary, inescapable even using nothing more than basic reasoning (you can construct many reductios proving incommensurability).

    Discussion of the Pythagoreans and the provocative nature of their secret truth of incommensurability unfortunately plays up for contemporary students the erroneous strong association of irrational numbers with irrationality. As I wrote above, it's not that there's no association there at all, but it's not quite what it seems to be and, even if it were, the strong association misleads people.

  24. Keith M Ellis said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

    And we haven't even discussed Brown's discussion of nomos. It's hardly less common or important in Greek language and philosophy than logos and almost as varied in meanings.

    Something I think that Mark may be deliberately alluding to is the implicit parallel here between ecology/economy and astrology/astronomy. What is Brown implicitly arguing about astrology? "Governor Moonbeam", indeed.

  25. boris said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    Wow, I always thought -nomy had to do with names or naming. It makes sense to me in "astronomy" (naming stars), and I always thought it was used because "astrology" was already taken. I admit, it doesn't make sense with economy/economics.

  26. Henning Makholm said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    @Keith:

    Yes, Euclid authoritatively used irrational as meaning "cannot be put into ratio" with the root logos because one of the meanings of logos is "reason, logic", including the mathematical sense.

    It turns out to be even more complex than I thought.

    In the Elements, book V, definitions 3ff, "λόγος" is any ratio, whether commensurable or not — in particular, definition 5 is lovingly crafted to work for incommensurable ratios too.

    But in book X, definitions 3-4, line segments that are (or: whose squares are) incommensurable are called "ἄλογοι" (even though they do have a "λόγος"). The commensurable ones are called "ῥητός" ("expressible", more or less). These two words are translated to "irrational" and "rational" in English, but don't look like negations of each other in the Greek text.

  27. Henning Makholm said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    @boris: No, "the naming of stars" would be "astronymy" (Greek) or "stellanomy" (Latin). (With some uncertainty about the final -y in both cases).

  28. Carl said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

    I have felt for a while that astrology/astronomy were misnamed. Astronomy is the STUDY of the stars, and astrology is about the effects of the LAWS of the stars on our lives, not vice versa as the names imply.

  29. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

    "Nomos" is also a Judeo-Christian term of art, rendering the Hebrew "torah" in the LXX and turning up in e.g. John 1:17, usually Englished there as "law." I don't know how much Greek as opposed to Latin the governor ever had – "logos" is one of a dozen or so Greek words (not including "nomos") one might have picked up in an intro New Testament class that didn't otherwise require Greek, but it's certainly true from a Christian perspective that the capital-L Logos is prior to the capital-N Nomos. Of course, it doesn't at all follow from that that therefore X-logia is prior to X-nomia for any particular X; that's the etymological fallacy on morphological stilts. (To Mike G., however, I would say that *if* astrology were in fact true there's probably a sense in which it would in fact be more fundamental that astronomy, since the latter would just be the superficially-observed playing out of the Deeper Stuff entailed by the former. But that's obviously a big if.)

  30. s/o said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    Keith Ellis – Jerry Brown was in school a very very long time ago. (And obviously should have left his forgotten greek and latin back there). His misuse of "logos" probably doesn't have anything to do with your sister's evangelical silliness. Jesuit silliness possibly, but that's an entirely different kind. It is heavy on Plato, though.

  31. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    @Henning Makholm: "Stellanomy" is certainly not Latin. For one thing, the Greek-origin astrum is perfectly at home in Latin. For another, the combining form of nouns ending in -a is -i-, as in stelliform. Thirdly, the root form of nomen is nomin- not nom-. Et caetera…

  32. Matt said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

    Is this the part where we start to complain about the word "television"?

  33. Ø said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

    What about "surd" for "irrational number"? What's the history of that?

  34. Dw said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    @ Ø :

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=surd says:

    from L. surdus "unheard, silent, dull," possibly related to susurrus "a muttering, whispering" (see susurration). The mathematical sense is from the use of L. surdus to translate Arabic (jadhr) asamm "deaf (root)," itself a loan-translation of Gk. alogos, lit. "speechless, without reason" (Euclid book x, Def.).

  35. Karl Weber said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    @DW: I've always loved the word "surd" ever since I saw how Lewis Carroll rhymed it in one of his acrostic poems:

    Yet what are all such gaieties to me
    Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?
    x2 + 7x + 53
    = 11 / 3.

  36. Jason said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

    The real WTF is how Jerry Brown thinks a philological discussion establishes anything about the actual relationship between economics and ecology. This kind of Sunday School hermeneutics about what words Really Mean has always profoundly depressed me, since the people who like to make the kind of maneuver invariably turn out to be politicians and preachers.

  37. Rod Johnson said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    Or philosophers (cf. Heidegger).

  38. Polyspaston said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 3:28 am

    How on Earth would you translate John 1:1 if you thought that 'logos' meant “lord, god, or the deep principles or patterns of nature"?

    "In the beginning was the 'lord, god, deep principles or patterns of nature', an the 'lord, god, deep principles or patterns of nature' was with… err, oh dear…"

  39. John F said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 7:00 am

    Matt said:
    Is this the part where we start to complain about the word "television"?

    Just on that point, I recently learned the German for television translates to English as 'far-seeing'. In Warhammer 40k, I wonder how Eldar Farseer translates into German.

    Hopefully the Greek/latin slip was just that. Embarrassing for sure, but probably doesn't invalidate his argument.

    Also, I do quite like the Governor's thinking. Perhaps etymology doesn't exactly back him up, but while we were commanded to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, we can't do that if we ignore force majeure.

  40. Sybil said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    I love that this has spawned a discussion of the origins of "irrational" Good show LL.

    (Everything I actually had to add to the discussion has already been said, alas.)

  41. Bill Walderman said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    "Oiko-logia" didn't mean anything in ancient Greek. At least, there's no entry in Liddell-Scott-Jones (including the revised supplement) for "oikologia". Although, of course, it's possible "oikologia" was used in some lost written work or in a conversation somewhere in the Greek-speaking world sometime between the Mycenaean era and modern times to mean "house talk". In modern Greek it means "ecology".

    "wo-i-ko-de", "to the woikos", which would be "oikonde" in Attic Greek, is actually attested in Linear B (Knossos As 1519). (A tablet from Thebes apparently spells this word "wo-ko-de." See J. T. Hooker, Linear B: An Introduction, sec. 166.)

    And the verb "lego", "speak", whence "logos" and "logia", is of Indo-European origin, so it almost certainly was current in Mycenaean Greek, even if unattested, although its original meaning was "choose" or "collect". But most of the Linear B tablets are lists of people and things, and don't necessarily include verbs, and it's not clear (to me, at least) whether it had already acquired the meaning "speak" in Mycenaean.

  42. Acilius said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    @Len 10:16 am: The ancient Greek Philesthai, in the middle voice, can mean "to flourish in, to thrive in." So there's a greeting Odysseus receives in the Odyssey, par ammi philesai, which does not really mean "you will be loved in our home," but "you will flourish in our home." This meaning influences English derivatives like "acidophilic" and "acidophilus," which refer to bacteria that thrive in acid, and "halophile," which refers to microorganisms that thrive in salt. So, you could analyze "philosophy" as "thriving in wisdom" (if you want to translate sophia as "wisdom.")

  43. Acilius said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    @Polyspaston 3:28am: "How on Earth would you translate John 1:1 if you thought that 'logos' meant “lord, god, or the deep principles or patterns of nature"? " I suppose you could say "In the beginning was God, and God was with God, and God was God." Which sounds a little bit like "There is no god but God," which is something quite a few people make a habit of saying. Of course, the fact that the Greek uses two quite distinct words would mean that it was cheating to collapse them both into "God."

    It strikes me as equally bad translating practice to translate logos as "Word" with a capital "W." That capital "W" is a way of saying "This instance of the word 'word' doesn't actually mean anything you might expect 'word' to mean based on any other use of it you've ever seen." If you're going to do that, you might as well translate it as "Shag Carpet" or "Rainbow Trout" or "Bus Schedule." My suggestion has always been to English the Greek word, and say "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." When people ask what a "Logos" is, the same answers are available as when they ask what "the Word" is. The advantage of "Logos" is that the question is likelier to be asked than if you paste in something familiar-sounding like "Word."

  44. s/o said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    The easiest explanation is that Jerry Brown has forgotten all the classics he learned a very long time ago in school, after all it hasn't come up much in his career since. He remembers the word "logos", and that it had something to do with God (via the quoted passage, where "theos" and "logos" were equated), and with the nature of things (via classical philosophy) but has hopelessly misremembered all the details.
    That's no excuse for the sloppiness, and the logic of the statement would still be lacking if he'd gotten the greek right, but taking etymology as destiny is a fairly common fallacy. It's a stretch to blame it on some sort of mushy religious thinking.

  45. Tom Recht said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    @Andrew (not the same one) philology is not an -ology. The word could perfectly well mean 'the study of love', but doesn't

    That would be philiology, surely (from philia). Which actually gets a few Google hits, but unfortunately they're mostly typos for philology.

  46. Mark F. said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    His statement could have still had some logic if he'd gotten the Greek right and it also happened to be true that -logy words and -nomy words still had some systematic difference that reflected the Greek roots in the way he wanted. It's a fallacy to think etymology is dispositive as to meaning, but it's not always a bad way to talk about meaning when they do correspond.

  47. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    @Tom Recht: Wouldn't "philiology" be more like the study of friendship (which is what φιλία means, at least in modern Greek)?

  48. Tom Recht said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    @Coby Lubliner: yes, you're right, or at least, it would be the study of "love" in a broad sense; φιλία in Classical Greek can mean the love of family members or close friends for one another. It turns out there is actually an English word "erotology", which means the study of romantic/sexual love.

  49. Jim said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

    "And the verb "lego", "speak", whence "logos" and "logia", is of Indo-European origin, so it almost certainly was current in Mycenaean Greek, even if unattested, although its original meaning was "choose" or "collect"."

    Bill Walderman, is it related to "pluck" and cognates in Germanic, and "legere" in Latin and other words on that root like "elect" and "eligible"?

  50. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    The notion that "logos" and words derived therefrom have some sort of fuzzy/fancy numinosity associated with them is not confined to those with long-ago Jesuit educations. Some of my very avant-garde and secular college contemporaries in the '80's (from the subset interested in both feminism and then-newly-trendy French po-mo literary theory) were fond of neologisms like "phallogocentrism," which wikipedia tells me was in fact a coinage of Jacques Derrida His Own Self (I would have supposed it was coined in an American college town by acolytes at one or two removes). Come to think of it, argumentation-by-bogus-etymology was a reasonably common mode of discourse of some of those trendy French dudes (most of whom had had impeccably rigorous classical educations before trying to "deconstruct" their own intellectual foundations, although perhaps they'd been brought up more in the Cartesian tradition than the Jesuitical) as well as some feminists of that era (I'm thinking especially of Mary Daly, who titled a book Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, presumably because back in the '70's simply uttering the word "ecology" was believed to have a certain shamanic effect).

  51. Ben Hemmens said,

    November 30, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

    The governor seems to have indulged in a little codology (the only Irish-flavored word for BS that I didn't notice Joe Biden using in the vice-presidential debate).

  52. maidhc said,

    December 1, 2012 @ 12:30 am

    We don't pay our governor to spend his time looking up etymologies!

  53. zythophile said,

    December 2, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    in Greek, philobakchos is one who loves wine (Bacchus)

    You mean I should really be Philozythos? Bugger.

  54. Monday links « Panther Red said,

    December 3, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    [...] 5. Having completed a bachelor's degree in Classics at Berkeley in 1961 doesn't necessarily mean that you won't say something asinine about ancient Greek 51 years later.  (Language Log) [...]

  55. The Historian and the Etymologist: An Experimental Twitter Essay | Carla Nappi said,

    December 12, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    [...] prove. #etym1 4. Though not from a historian, here's a recent example of this phenomenon: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4341 See what I mean? #etym1 5. This seduction of etymology as explanation seems to be related to the [...]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment