Word of the Day

Friday, April 05, 2019

anthophobia

[ an-thuh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an abnormal fear of flowers.

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What is the origin of anthophobia?

Anthophobia, “an abnormal fear of flowers,” is surely one of the odder phobias, as opposed to acrophobia “an abnormal fear of heights” or arachnophobia “an abnormal fear of spiders” or—a good one!—chiroptophobia “an abnormal fear of bats (the flying mammal).” Anthophobia is composed of two Greek nouns: ánthos “flower” and the combining form –phobíā “fear.” Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) suffered from anthophobia, especially of a fear of roses, which has no technical name. Anthophobia entered English in the 19th century.

how is anthophobia used?

And if you dislike the task of summer gardening, you may even be a victim of anthophobia, the fear of flowers, although that’s a rare malady indeed.

Hal Boyle, "Some Phobias You Can Enjoy," Tallahassee Democrat, Associated Press, May 23, 1969

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been terrorized by roses, a subcategory of anthophobia, a generalized fear of flowers.

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, "Conquering Our Phobias: The Biological Underpinnings of Paralyzing Fears," U.S. News & World Report, December 6, 2004
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Thursday, April 04, 2019

multiverse

[ muhl-ti-vurs ]

noun

a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, including our own.

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What is the origin of multiverse?

Multiverse, a combination of the common prefix multi– and (uni)verse, nowadays means “a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, ours included,” a sense first suggested in 1952 by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961). Multiverse, however, was coined by the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). Multiverse to James was an alternative to or an opposite of universe and meant “the universe imagined as lacking order, unity, or a single ruling and guiding power.” James used multiverse in a lecture “Is Life Worth Living?” in 1895.

how is multiverse used?

Multiverse proponents advocate the idea that there may exist innumerable other universes, some of them with totally different physics and numbers of spatial dimensions; and that you, I and everything else may exist in countless copies.

Heinrich Päs, "Quantum Monism Could Save the Soul of Physics," Scientific American, March 5, 2019

Ten days before he died, Stephen Hawking sent one more written insight out into the cosmos—a paper, co-written with physicist Thomas Hertog of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, tackling the problem of a multiverse.

Sarah Kaplan, "One of Stephen Hawking's final scientific acts: Tackling the multiverse," Washington Post, May 3, 2018
Wednesday, April 03, 2019

hamartia

[ hah-mahr-tee-uh ]

noun

the character defect that causes the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy; tragic flaw.

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What is the origin of hamartia?

In Greek the noun hamartíā means “failure, fault, error (of judgment), guilt, sin.” Hamartia, if familiar at all, will be familiar as the term that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) uses in his Poetics for the personal defect or frailty—the tragic flaw—that brings about the ruin of a prosperous or eminent man who is neither utterly villainous nor totally good, like, for instance, Oedipus. Hamartíā is a derivative of the verb hamartánein “(of a spear) to miss the mark, (in general) to fail in one’s purpose, fall short, go wrong.” Hamartánein with its derivatives and related words, like about 60 percent of Greek vocabulary, has no known etymology. Hamartia entered English in the late 19th century.

how is hamartia used?

Every person was felt to have his or her hamartia—a tragic flaw, or potential for error in judgment that would frequently destroy an otherwise promising career. The most common among these flaws was hubris ….

James P. Atwater, "Letter to the Editor: The President's Men," New York Times, August 29, 1982

… his hamartia (“error”) leads to the loss of all that matters to him, as well as to a puncturing of his former worldview.

Mark Buchan, "Sophocles with Lacan," A Companion to Sophocles, 2012

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