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This week we'll explore words using the Greek prefix epi-.

epigone – a second-rate imitator or follower (especially of a writer, artist or musician)
Pronounced with three syllables; the 'e' at the end is silent.
The Epigonoi were the sons of the Seven against Thebes, who imitated their fathers by attacking Thebes. Greek gonos 'child'
quote:
This patronizing habit of writing off Clare as an unsophisticated epigone began in his own lifetime -- indeed, to judge by the facts of that life, any dutiful gradgrind would have concluded that Clare couldn't possibly have amounted to much of a poet at all.
- David Barber, in The Atlantic on line, Dec. 9, 1999, on poet John Clare (1793-1864)

From 1883 to 1892, during Winston's formative schooldays, Winston was his father's epigone, pasting press cuttings and cartoons of Lord Randolph in scrapbooks.
- Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel, republished within The Winston Churchill Home Page (original publication unclear)
 
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quote:
Greek gonos 'child'
A better reference would be to the Greek epígonos '(one) born afterwards'.
 
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epicenter - the focal point, especially of a crisis (originally, the point of the earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake)

AHD's usage experts strongly approve the figurative use as focal point, in dangerous, destructive, or negative contexts. Approval is lower when the context is neutral or positive. Compare these two illustrative quotes:
quote:
Al-Qaida has changed, but it's still at the epicenter of anti-Western terrorism.
- Paul Haven, Associated Press, 3/6/2003

How did Silicon Valley reach this zenith? What transformed a former patch of apricot and prune orchards into the epicenter of global technology?
- Business Week, August 25, 1997
The term is also used specifically as the focal point from which a disease spreads: "According to the patients they all ate in the restaurant, which has been pinpointed as the epicenter for the disease." People's Daily Online (China), September 6, 2001
 
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Time has been kind to today's word.

The greek philosopher Epicurus taught that pleasure is the highest good, to which life should be devoted, and that virtue is the greatest pleasure. Subsequent generations adopted the first precept and forgot the second, so that 'epicure' became a pejorative word meaning for 'one who gives himself up to sensual pleasure', especially the pleasures of food and sex.

But in our time the word, cleaned up, applies to fine dining. The earlier pejorative meaning still is valid, but is secondary.

epicure - one with refined taste, especially in food and wine. (With a sense of "over-refined'; contrast 'gourmet')
quote:
An epicure dining at Crewe
Once found quite a large mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, "Don't shout
And wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too."
 
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That epicure dining at Crewe
was drinking his mouse-soup in lieu
of the meal in his own suite
at Birmingham New Street -
Mr Porter, Oh what shall I do?*

* For further information go to http://www.amaranthdesign.ca/musichall/songs/porter.htm
Richard English
 
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epicene – having characteristics of both the male and the female, as an epicene angel
Also, in linguistics, a word having the same form for both male and female. AHD discusses the effort to create epicene pronouns, such as s/he and hisser.

This word, like 'epicure', has been cleaned up over time. The sources say it stems from Greek epikoinos 'common to many; promiscuous'. Considering the current definition, my guess is that this is another of the many cases where lexicographers are coy about sexual matters, and that 'promiscuous' is their euphemism for 'bisexual'.
quote:
What about Beckham's nail varnish?" growled Dennis Skinner, a reference to the pink fingernails sported by England's epicene football captain at the christening of Liz Hurley's baby.
- Simon Hoggart, At the end of the day, they were clutching at balls, The Guardian, July 9, 2002

He has a clear-eyed, epicene handsomeness -- cruel, sensuous mouth; cheekbones to cut your heart on -- the sort of excessive beauty that is best appreciated in repose on a 50-foot screen.
- Franz Lidz, Jude Law: He Didn't Turn Out Obscure at All, New York Times, May 13, 2001 (thanks to dictionary.com)
 
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epiphany - a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
Originally (as I understand it), an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being. The Christian Church used the term as referance to the advent of Christ.
from Greek for "manifest, conspicuous," which comes for from epi- = on, to + phainein = to show
quote:
The heroine experiences a bizarre epiphany while strolling on the shore: she comes to see a dying, beached whale as a symbol of her own mismanaged lie, and she begs, with a nearly religious fervor, that it (and presumably she) might be granted a second chance.
- Marianne Wiggins, reviewing in the New York Times, August 19, 1987

These small epiphanies are what I've come to think of as Eureka Moments, those times when all doubt melts away and a parent becomes certain she has discovered the perfect preschool for her child.
- Mona Behan, in Parenting, September 1995
 
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Epicrisis is one of those unusual words which has two different pronunciations, with two different meanings.

epic´risis - a detailed critical study or evaluation (some sources add 'of a literary work')
(accent on second syllable)

ep´icri´sis - medical: a secondary crisis; one following the primary of a disease
(accent on first syllable; secondary accent on the penultimate [= next to last])
 
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A word with interesting variations The sources give three related meanings, which I list from narrowest to broadest. I'd think the first sense is the generally understood one, and that the last, broadest sense is completely obscure -- but I should admit that the sources neither confirm nor reject that thought.

epithet – a smear-name:
--- "He used the epithet 'communist' for everyone who disagreed with him."
--- "There is no place for racial epithets in a police officer's vocabulary."

AHD notes: "Strictly speaking, an epithet need not be derogatory, but the term is commonly used as a simple synonym for term of abuse or slur.” Which leads us to the more general meaning;

epithet (more generally) – a characterzing adjective or substitute-name, positive or negative:
--- Catherine the Great (adjective); The Great Emancipator for Abraham Lincoln.
Basically, a name "added on". We see this in the etymology: from Greek epithetos "attributed, added," from epi- "in addition" + tithenai "to put."

epithet (most generally but, I'd say, quite rare) – an adjective naming some particularly appropriate quality: a just man; a verdant lawn.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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epithet (most generally but, I'd say, quite rare) – an adjective naming some
particularly appropriate quality: a just man; a verdant lawn.
-------------------------------------------------
Or, in the case of the story of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, a just and verdant man.
Big Grin
 
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