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.
Bill Long 10/08/04
Several Words More Briefly
So, I come to the third of my essays on "Epi." Actually, the previous one, on episcopicide and relatives, was not strictly an "epi" article, since the Greek word had come into Latin as episcopos and, since there is no "epi" prefix in Latin, the concept behind the "epi" prefix had already been incorporated into the word. But we have several more catchy and visually-interesting words today connected with "epi."
I am, in fact, indebeted to the Century Dictionary and Cylopedia from the end of the 19th century for this one. The OED only has the entry episematic, and it takes us immediately into a very technical world by defining it as "designating natural colors, markings, etc., which serve to assist animals of the same species to recognize each other." Thus, one has episematic colors, I suppose, which mean those colors which attract members of the same species and lead them to "connect." But, even before I get to episemon, I would like to broaden episematic for our use. One could say, "Gang membership in our day is episematic. Wearing Crips colors in a Blood neighborhood can diminish your pleasure as well as shorten your days." Thus, we can interpret episematic in the context of something that "signifies" or "indicates" or "points to." Maybe we can say that something is "episematic of" something else, but I may be stretching the word too far. Thus, let's retreat to the safety of episemon.
Episemon, derived from the Greek "epi" (meaning "upon") and "sema" (meaning "sign" or "mark") means any distinguishing mark, a device, as on a coin or shield, a badge, crest, ensign. Thus, an episemon is a device or badge that corresponds to the crest of later times. "The episemon of the town is a boar's head." Now we have discovered a really useful word. We use the words "mascot" or "insignia" in English, but we really need episemon as a word of general utility to represent the "symbol" or "sign" of something. It can include a mascot, a motto, a trademark or possibly a slogan. We can use it to describe any mark that is associated with a person or a group. I would use it in the first instance to describe a particular device or badge, but then, by extension, it could include anything that "stands for" a group. "Original Intent" is the episemon of some conservative judges today. Sort of like shibboleth, though you don't have to be familiar with the Book of Judges.
Let's sail on to epiploon which, fortunately for us, is derived from the Greek word "epipleein" meaning "to sail or float on." Yet, its use is exclusively in the medical world to mean the "caul or omentum, a fatty membrane enwrapping the intestines." The first attestation goes back to the 16th century. It can also be described as a "curtain-like" omentum or a "double membrane" covering the intestines that is filled with fat. In any case, we get the picture of some membrane "floating" along just outside the intestines. If all medical terminology were so visual and so much fun, I might have become a medical doctor.
This word tricked me when I first came upon it, because I associated it with epiploce, the rhetorical term, and since I knew that the ending "ele" is generally a diminutive, I thought it meant a "little epiploce," and since epiploce was a "weaving together" of sentences by a process of gradual building of intensity, I thought at first that epiplocele would mean a "slight" weaving together of things or a "little weave." But, I would have been wrong. Actually, epiplocele [four syallables with accent on the second, called the "antepenult" in Greek] is derived from the previous word, epiploon but it adds a "cele" [pronounced "seal"] to it, meaning "rupture" in Greek. Ah, now I am getting the picture, and there is nothing rhetorical about it at all. It means "a hernia or rupture in which a portion of the omentum is protruded." Yikes. Even the definition sounds quite painful.
This has (guess how many?) six syllables, with the accent on the third. E-pip-LOS-ke-o-seal. That's is. Say it four or five times and you will hardly have difficulty pronouncing any other word in the English language. There are three Greek words standing behind this word. We can see the "caul" or "omentum," sailing as it is on the intestines. Then, the word "oskeon" means testicles or scrotum, and "cele," as we have seen, is "rupture." Putting it all together, it is a hernia in which the omentum descends into the scrotum. I don't have a nice medical picture to show this, as I did with Doric columns, and maybe that is best. Any time that the omentum starts descending, I think we are in big trouble.
And, the Century Dictionary has a few more words like this. It has epiplomphalocele (e-pi-PLOM-fa-lo-seal), behind which we see the word "omphalos," meaning "navel" [an omphaloskeptic, as my high school physics teacher taught us, always gazed at his navel. I diddn't learn much physics from him, but I had lots of fun in the class.], and thus epiplomphalocele is the descending of (or protruding of) the omentum into the navel.
Only one more example will kill off any kind of interest in this subject: epiploischiocele (pronounced e-pi-plo-IS-ki-o-seal). At first I confused this term with epiploscheocele and just figured it was an alternative spelling that was around more than 100 years ago, but then I realized that the middle syllables of epiploischiocele were derived from a different Greek word: "ischeon" or "the hip-joint." Thus, epiploischiocele is a hernia in which the omentum protrudes through the "sciatic formamen," even if I don't get a clear picture of that. Nevertheless, we have a few words (and there is one more I know of) that present the reality of a sinking or protruding omentum. The medical reality is, no doubt, very painful, but the picture created is pretty vivid. Once the omentum loses its grip on the intestines, or ceases to "float" next to it, trouble comes.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long