Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Finishing the "Acro" Story
I would like to start my final acro essay with a factitious word, a word I made up for the occasion. Much of our vocabulary describing mental states is, expectedly, derived from psychology. A person who is subject to dramatic mood swings is usually referred to as "manic depressive." But, I wanted to make up a word, derived from prefixes we have studied, to express the same concept. It would be acrobathetic or acrobenthic. The acrobathetic person is subject to the "heights" and the "depths" that bedevil the "manic depressive" person, but the "acro" functions almost as a geographic term and emphasizes the person's ability to climb right to the top of the scale of human experiences. "Bathetic" stresses not simply the depths, the "Marianas Trench" submersion of the spirit, but by rhyming with "pathetic," lends a note of pathos or sadness to the experience. The word "depression," or "depressive" is used far too frequently today ["I'm so depressed!"] that is has been emptied of meaning. Thus I suggest acrobathetic to capture the sadness and extremes of feeling which regularly oppress so many people.
In the previous essay, I said that I would examine three pairs of "acro" synonyms. The two I explored in that essay were acronym/acrostic and acrologic/acrophony. Here I mention two words derived from botany, but they are words I would like to remove from their botanic identification. Acropetal is defined as "tending toward the summit or apex; said of the order in which the parts of a plant arise, when the course of development is from below upward." Acroscopic is defined similarly: "Looking, or on the side, towards the apex."
Acropetal consists of the familiar prefix acro combined with petere, the Latin word meaning "to seek." The verbal picture is thus very rich. We see a plant that "seeks the top." Rather than confining our meaning to the OED definition, then, why not use it to describe not just a plant which "tends upward," but to capture the human yearning to seek heaven, or something "above" or some kind of perfection that eludes us on the earth. Let's loose it from the botanic connection, and talk about someone's acropetal heart. Rather than saying that a person is "taking the high road," why not say that s/he is acropetally inclined in this situation?
And one can do the same for acroscopic, a plant that "looks" (skopein) toward the top. A vivid text from Genesis 15 comes to mind when I think about this word. In that text Abraham was doubting the ability of God to provide him an heir. God took him outside and bade him lift his eyes to the myriad stars of the heavens. "So shall your descendants be," Yahweh said. Thus, whenever I think of a "non-scientific" use of acroscopic, I think of Abraham "looking" to the "heavens" and believing God. Thus we could talk about acroscopic vision or acroscopic faith or an acroscopic confidence. As I said, the OED limits the use of these terms to a precise botanical connotation; why not expand the linguistic reach of the term?
A Few Other Acros
In classical sculpture, an acrolith is a sculpted body with extremities (acro), such as head, arms and legs, in rock (lithos means stone) and the remainder of the statue in wood. Thus, when archaeologists find a stone head of an ancient goddess, they can only speculate that it might be an acrolith and that the rest of her body has disintegrated through time.
A plant that is acrocarpous has fruits (carpous) on the tips. A catchy two-word definition is "terminal fruited." Though I have no non-botanical suggestion to give to expand its meaning, I think the clarity of the picture of a tree bearing its fruit at the end of the branches is suggestive.
One Final Acro
Built on the analogy to epinychal, which means "nightly," is acronychal (accent on second syllable) meaning "happening in the evening" or "vespertine." It has also appeared as acronycal, acronyctous or acronych. But it has a definite meaning in astronomy and refers to a star which rises or sets in the evening. One therefore has an acronychal setting or acronychal rising of a star. And, the plot thickens with acronychal a bit when we realize that Chambers' 1751 Cyclopedia said this about it. "The Acronychal is one of the three poetical risings, and settings of the stars; and stands distinguished from Cosmical and Heliacal." Whoops, we are now getting into "threes," which, fortunately, will be the topic of the next mini-essay.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long