Word of the Day

Saturday, October 26, 2019

chthonian

[ thoh-nee-uhn ]

adjective

Classical Mythology.

of or relating to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.

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What is the origin of chthonian?

Chthonian ultimately derives from the Greek adjective chthónios “of the earth, the underground, the underworld.” Chthónios is a derivative of the noun chthṓn, deriving from a very, very old Proto-Indo-European word meaning “earth” and surviving in most of the “daughter” languages. The original Proto-Indo-European root was dheghm, dhghem-, dhghom-, (dh)ghm– (with various suffixes). From dheghm– Hittite derives tekan (stem tagn-) “earth,” Tocharian A (spoken in central Asia and now part of Xin Jiang) tkaṃ, Sanskrit kṣam-, and Avestan zəm-. From dh(e)ghom Greek has chthṓn, from earlier chthom (Greek also reversed the order of the consonant cluster from thch– to chth-). The suffixed form (dh)ghom-os yields Latin humus (from homos) “earth,” the adjective humilis “low to the ground” (English humble), and the noun humilitās (stem humilitāt-) “lowness of height or position, low condition (English humility). The suffixed form dhgh(e)mōn “one who is on the earth, human being” becomes hemō (stem hemōn-) in Old Latin, homō (stem homin-) in Latin. Latin also derives, somewhat obscurely, from homin– the adjective humānus “of man, human, humane, gentle” (English human and humane). (Hebrew follows a similar semantic development with ādhām “man, mankind, human being, Adam” and ădhāmāh “earth, soil, ground.”) In Germanic (dh)ghm-ōn yields guma “human being, man” in Gothic and Old English. Old English has the noun brȳdguma “young man about to be married or recently married; bridegroom, husband,” which becomes brīdgome in Middle English, and bridegroom in English. The –groom in bridegroom arose in the 16th century due to the influence of groom “boy, young man.” Chthonian entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is chthonian used?

The streets throng with crowds of dapper skeletons and chthonian floats.

Christopher Orr, "Spectre: Bond Doesn't Need an Origin Story," The Atlantic, November 6, 2015

This chthonian belief—that the world’s underbelly rumbles with life—guides all the so-called Earth-based faiths.

Michael Tortorello, "If a Druid Rings the Doorbell," New York Times, October 30, 2013
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Friday, October 25, 2019

psychotronic

[ sahy-kuh-tron-ik ]

adjective

of or relating to a genre of usually low-budget movies that includes horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and underground films.

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What is the origin of psychotronic?

Psychotronic is a word to make you smile. It is composed of the perfectly ordinary combining form psycho-, from the Greek noun psȳchḗ “breath, spirit, soul, mind” and the suffix –tronic, extracted from (elec)tronic. Psychotronic originally (1968) meant “pertaining to psychotronics,” a pseudoscience devoted to the interaction of matter, energy, and human consciousness, especially in parapsychological phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis (think the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats.) In the early 1980s another meaning arose, “relating to a genre of usually low-budget movies that includes horror, fantasy, and science-fiction.”

how is psychotronic used?

American International Pictures was the most important company in the world of Psychotronic movies.

Michael J. Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide, 1996

Vesley asks viewers to accept that this is a world where ghosts, werewolves, and witches are real—no big deal, a baseline ask for any psychotronic film ….

Katie Rife, "It's big trouble for Lil Chano in the wacky fast-food horror comedy Slice," AV Club, September 11, 2018
Thursday, October 24, 2019

numinous

[ noo-muh-nuhs, nyoo- ]

adjective

spiritual or supernatural.

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What is the origin of numinous?

The Latin source for numinous is the noun numen (inflectional stem nūmin-), derived from the verb –nuere “to nod the head as a signal of assent or command.” The verb –nuere occurs only in compounds such as adnuere (annuere) “to beckon, nod, assent to,” formed from the preverb ad-, an-, meaning “to,” plus –nuere. The phrase annuit coeptis, “He (God) has favored our undertakings,” is the motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the U.S. and is also printed on the reverse of a one-dollar bill. Annuit coeptis is an adaptation of a line from from Vergil’s Aeneid. The Latin neuter noun suffix -men forms concrete nouns from verbs. The meanings of numen range from “a nod of the head, inclination, bias,” to “divine or supernatural power (which also possesses poets and prophets, and offers protection),” to “the expressed will of a god, divinity.” Numinous entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is numinous used?

This confrontation becomes more dramatic if the numinous power takes a personified form—of a spirit, ghost, devil, revenant, nightmare, witch or some other human or non-human entity.

Ülo Valk and Daniel Sävborg, "Place-Lore, Liminal Storyworld and Ontology of the Supernatural," Storied and Supernatural, 2018

The Periodic Table, by contrast, was a Jacob’s ladder, a numinous spiral, going up to, coming down from a Pythagorean heaven.

Oliver Sacks, "Brilliant Light," The New Yorker, December 20, 1999

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