Let's return to a favorite theme: eponyms, or words from the names of real or fictional characters. A few years ago we've had themes of eponyms from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and from the Muses. This week we look at more eponyms from the ancient Greeks.
apollo – a young man of great physical beauty
– Andrew Ferguson, National Review, Jan. 23, 1995
From the tale of Daedalus and Icarus:
Icarian – soaring too high for safety; applying to ambitious or presumptuous acts which end in failure or ruin
– Daily Telegraph, Dec. 1, 1972 (credit OED for this lovely quote)
– Patrick O'Brian, The Surgeon's Mate
... the best of the projects in the magazine were truly daedal: ingenious, cleverly intricate and diversified.
– Eric Kraft, Taking Off
Which brings to mind that wonderful word, logodaedaly.
solon – a wise lawgiver, or a legislator [often sarcastic]
[from Solon, an early lawgiver of Athens]
– Insight on the News, March 27, 2000
I'm aquainted with one of the designers/builders of the human-powered aircraft that flew from Crete to Santorini back in the 1980s, attempting to recreate/reify the ancient myth.. Ironically, a wing collapsed just as it reached the shoreline, giving the pilot a dousing, so, despite the incredible success of the flight (setting the world record for human-powered flight distance and endurance) it was both daedal and icarian! The name of the bird was, of course, Icarus.
pyrrhonism – extreme skepticism; universal doubt
[Pyrrho, founder of a school of skeptics in Greece, about 300 B.C.]
I'm fond of the first quote here.
– T.S. Eliot, Notes Toward a Definition of Culture
I have often been reproached with the aridity of my genius; a deficiency of imagination has been imputed to me as a crime; and the Pyrrhonism of my opinions has at all times rendered me notorious.
– Edgar Allen Poe, Ms. Found in a Bottle
Today's two words are often used together, and often to the denigration of the latter. I'll give a variety of quotes.
Apollonian – 1. characterized by clarity, harmony, and restraint 2. serenely high-minded; noble
Dionysian – of an ecstatic, orgiastic, or irrational nature; frenzied or undisciplined
[from Dionysos, god of wine and revelry]
– Michael Dirda, Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life
Romantic notions of political creativity persist: In The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg invoked Nietzsche's distinction between Apollo and Dionysus to explain Bill Clinton's "unheralded perseverance and political skill" in creating a new "political space" in America. The notion of Bill Clinton as Tragic Artist, part Apollonian seer, part Dionysian wild man, lovingly remaking our "public space" may sound like mere fatuous punditry …
– Michael Knox Beran, National Review, Nov. 6, 2000
The Dionysian has definitively triumphed over the Apollonian. No grace, no reticence, no measure, no dignity, no secrecy, no depth, no limitation of desire is accepted.
– Theodore Dalrymple, Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses
fatuous – silly and pointless (noun: fatuity)
Zoilus; Zoilist – a carping, malignant critic [for origin, see quote]
There is a large grain of truth in Brooks's joke. One of the origins of modern newspaper reviewing - the cuttingest edge of criticism - are the "Zoilists" of the late-16th century. The name derives from Zoilus, the malignant critic of Homer. Zoilus was the man who dared say that the author of the Odyssey wasn't all that he was cracked up to be. It was the role of Zoilists (lovely word) to "carp" (another lovely word). Like their modern version, "flyters" (traders in literary insult), they had only one mission in critical life: to piss on the work of art. The only qualifications for the job were a full bladder and a brass neck.
– John Sutherland, The Independent, Dec. 12, 1998
flyter – obs. one who scolds; a scold.