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.
Passalorynchite! First Mini-Essay
On Method and Obscurity
I am sure I will write a mini-essay on no more obscure topic than this one. But I am doing so both because of my own confusion as well as to illustrate a point about internet (and other) research.
An Introductory Story
Let me start with a story. When I was doing research for my book A Hard-Fought Faith: Journeying with Job through Mystery (Upper Room Books, 2004), I was looking for quotations of "great authors" on the Book of Job. I believed and still believe that the Book of Job is the most profound, searching exposition of the problem of loss in Western literature. When I searched the "Net," I found a quotation attributed to Victor Hugo to the effect that if all other literature perished and he was left with one book only, he would have it be the Book of Job. Only thing is, I searched the works of Hugo high and low, asked librarians and Hugo scholars, and could not come up with such a statement. Maybe it exists. If it does, I will gratefully receive it, because it supports my point. However, I couldn't find such a quotation.
The best I could do was to discover, in his book called William Shakespeare (1864), a list of those he believed to be the twelve most significant Western authors. After listing the 12 authors, he then narrowed it down to six: Homer, Job, Isaiah, Aeschylus, Dante and Shakespeare. Quite a company and, in general, I would agree with him. I was half expecting that he, after giving the refined list of six would then narrow it down and say, "Job it is!" But he didn't. Thus, in the Introduction to my book I quoted Victor Hugo but only quoted his book on Shakespeare. I didn't accept the online "quotation." I will not use it until I see it in an actual book by Hugo. That is research 101. But, with the proliferation of simplistic answers to everything today, and the great interest that after-dinner speakers have in quotations, I think that the "improper Huge" will go on being quoted. Enough.
Now, on to Passalornychite
As I was studying obscure words from a number of online sources, I ran across this word. I think I first met it in the Grandiloquent Dictionary. All it said was, Passolorynchite--"a member of an early Christian sect who took a vow of perpetual silence." I blinked and looked at the word, and did not see the words silence or vow in it. Actually, I didn't know exactly what I was seeing, but I was more intrigued by the definition than satisfied by it. So, I did what any normal word nerd would do: I continued my online searching for the term. I found it at Luciferous Logolepsy, and discovered that the same definition was given. Hm. Keep searching. So, I went to a web site that has definitions of unusual ecclesiastical terms. Surely, I would find something more descriptive of these folks than the other dictionaries. Not to be. It gave the same definition. There were a few other appearances of passalorynchite on the Web, but all of them just copied the definition. Even the multi-volume Catholic Encyclopedia had no entry on it nor, as I could find, any reference to it. I don't know who originated the term nor where they got it. I was at a loss.
The Search Continues
I suppose that most people faced with this situation would have just gone about their lives as previously. Actually, I believe that most people would never have faced this situation because they would have not found it interesting or alluring to spend extra hours poring over unused words. Something about raising families and making money and having fun usually resonates more strongly with most people. Yet, I persisted. I didn't enjoy the fact that I was stumped. I wasn't about to go around repeating the definition of passalorynchite that I had read--not, mind you, that anyone would have had the slightest interest in the word or my definition of it.
So, here is how I reasoned. I said that if this concept or person existed it probably had something to do with monastic vows. Therefore, it was probably a phenomenon in the early Christian church. The word looked Greek to me, even though I was confused by it. I thought it was built off the root "pas," meaning "all" or "every", but I could't find anything remotely like it in the big dictionary--the Liddell/Scott dictionary of classical Greek. Indeed, if it was built off "pas," it would have been formed off the genitive singular--"pantos." No luck. I tried a search for "lorynchite" with related words, and didn't find anything either, at least online. Then, the breakthrough came.
I decided to pick up my copy of Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon. This is a massive work put together by a former professor at Cambridge University, and is probably in the holdings of only one or two libraries, if any, in my state. I bought my personal copy in the late 1970s at the Harvard Divinity School bookstore when I was interested in Greek literature and after I actually had been accepted into a doctoral program at Cambridge University in Patristics to study with Professor Lampe. I never ended up going there because I couldn't raise the money for it, but I always cherished my Lampe, even though I didn't make much use of it. I got it out, looked up passalorynchite, and there it was! Go to Passalorynchite II to learn what I found.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long