Palin and Lalia
Theological Terms I
Theological Terms II
Theol. Terms III
Noso and Noce/Nocu
Milton, Book I (PL)
Oo and Ovi
Labors of Hercules I
Oblectation et al.
Dissimulare et al.
Acroama et al.
Tetrous et al.
Commeate et al.
Obsolete et al.
Subtle et al. I
Hesitate et al. (Ovid)
Excoriate et al. I
Excoriate et al. II
The Greek Prefix "apo" I
Bill Long 9/1/08
A Host of Words
The Greek prefix apo means "off" or "from" and appears at the beginning of dozens of words in English. This goal of this and the next two essays is to list and explain about 25 of them. My hope is that many of these, which have the air of sophistication, may become part of your working vocabulary.
Let me begin by listing a bunch which I will consider: apostle, aposematic, aporia (together with aporeme, aporetic), aposiopesis, apostrophe, apophysis, apophasis, apophthegm, apopemptic, apolytikion, apodictic, apocope (apocopation), apojove, apolune, apocalypse (apocalyptic), apocatastasis, apocrisiary, apocrustic, apodosis, apodyterium, apograph, apolaustic, apologue, apostasy.
This is not an exhaustive list. For example, I leave out familiar words, in order of familiarity, such as apology, apocrypha, apotheosize, apotropaic, apoxyomenos. All have quite precise meanings; I learned the first four in religious studies in college; the fifth was only something that I learned a few years ago.
One more preliminary comment is helpful. Not every word beginning with "apo" is derived from the Greek prefix apo. For example, the Apoda are a limbless order of amphibians, confined to the tropics and subtropics, that have become adapted to a burrowing life and look like earthworms. Their name derives from the fact that they have no feet (the "a" is an alpha privative, meaning "without" and the "pod" is from the Greek word pous, meaning "foot"). Thus, an "apod" differs quite a bit from an "ipod.."
Another example of this is aporia. Aporia is an term from ancient philosophy and means a doubt or perplexing difficulty. The Greek is derived from the alpha privative and the word poros, or "passage." Thus, an aporia is something through which there is no passage. Something impervious in Latin is something through which (per) there is not (im/in) a way (via). Knowing the roots can provide you endless pleasure--often when you are supposed to be doing something else. An aporetic work is one that is inclinded to doubt or to raise objections. "The church hierarchy was incensed with what it took to be an aporetic attack on the magisterium."
1. From ancient rhetoric we have aposiopesis, apophasis and apostrophe. Sometimes the meaning of the first two seems to overlap, but I will distinguish them here. Let's begin with the easiest: apostrophe. We usually know it as the mark before an "s" or "ll" in some words, but in fact it means, literally, "to turn from." The Greek verb strephein means "to turn." It is, in an address, a "turning away" from the total audience in order to address individually people present or absent, either real or imaginary. It is most effectively used when a person has recently died, and an orator, in speaking about the person, turns to address him/her as though present. Sort of a "Joe, I know you can hear me wherever you are, and since you can, I want to say how much we all loved you, how much what you have done will never be forgotten, how you have etched yourself deep into our consciousness, etc. etc." Keep in mind--Turn away and address separately. That is the essence of apostrophe.
Aposiopesis is "silence from" or, in rhetoric, "sudden reticence." It is the suppression of what the speaker or writer seemed to be on the brink of saying. One can fall silent because there is no more to say, because you don't really know what you want to say or because you want the hearer to "fill in the gaps" in what you have said and come to their own conclusion. The last of these comes very close to apophasis (or paralipsis/paraleipsis), which is the deliberate passing over ("from" and "speech") of something for the purpose of emphasizing its presence.
Let me illustrate apophasis and then double back to aposiopesis. An apophasis is when you mention something by not mentioning it. "I need not mention to this audience the nature of his crime" (well, simply by alluding to his crime, you allow the audience to "fill in the gaps" and thus make the guy even more guilty than they might think him to be if you lay it out yourself). In this regard, apophasis is a kind of irony, because we are denying that we say or do that which we especially say or do. "Not to mention," or "I don't need to say anything about XXX," when merely by mentioning the XXX you have turned the hearers to that. Aposiopesis, as mentioned, is the act of falling silent, which you can do in speech for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most powerful is to "let a point or emotion "sink in." "I held the hand of the dying man in my hand"--- Let the silence sink in, and then continue. This can be an effective means of allowing the audience to enter the emotional space of your talk. So, aposiopesis and apophasis (same as paralepsis) occupy similar spaces on the rhetorical spectrum, though each stresses something different (the silence, the explicit 'passing over').
4. An apostle is one who is "sent off." The Greek words lying behind it are apo ("from") and stellein ("to send"). Thus, it can refer, neutrally, to one sent or, more particularly, one sent in the name of someone else. It specifically refers to the twelve men whom Jesus Christ sent forth to preach the Gospel. Luke's understanding, in Acts, is that Barbabas and Paul also were apostles (Acts 13:2; 14:4). It is generally used more broadly today. Just as one can characterize someone as a "preacher" for some cause or an "evangelist" for the global warming movement, so one can denominate a person as an "apostle" of a secular organization.
This gets us started. We move along quicker in the next essay.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long