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.
Trophy--A Real Winner
On September 11, 2004, I placed second in the National Senior Spelling Bee in Cheyenne, WY. Begun by the Wyoming AARP in 1996, the Senior Bee is open to anyone 50 years of age or older who is willing to come to Cheyenne in September (it will be in June 2005) to compete against other folks from 50-99 in spelling prowess. The "juniors" among the seniors won last weekend (the winner and I are both 52). As a result of my perfomance I was given a plaque--a trophy of my achievement. While reflecting on the trophy and the weekend, I decided to do a little work on the word, and here is what I found.
Possible Roots--"Tropos" First
Actually, I backed into "trophy" via some roots I was studying. I found that "tropos" and "tropho" are nearest-neighbors in the dictionary, and then follows "trophy." The former ("tropos") is derived from the Greek verb "trepein," with its corresponding nouns being "tropos" and "trope," and it literally means "to turn" or a "turning." A trope in the rhetorical sense is a figure of speech consisting in the use of a word or phrase in a sense other than that which is proper to it. If one, therefore, knows how to "turn a phrase," it means that one is apt in tropes, able to use figurative language.
Tropes were vitally useful for Reformation theologians of the 16th century in their interpretation of Scripture. The bread and wine in the Eucharist were not, as the Catholics claimed, the actual body and blood of Christ, or even, using Aristotelian philosophy, indicia of the accidents of Christ under the substance of bread and wine. Far from it. These elements were tropes, turnings, symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ. Thus a person skillful in Scriptural tropes would be highly desirable in Protestantism. Since the Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) was Protestantism's foundational doctrine, anyone who could make the Scriptures dance or turn would not only be a clever person but a potentially useful spiritual pugilist.
Turning to "Tropho"
But the house that "tropho" built is different, as different as the Craftsman style is from Tudor Revival. "Tropho" is from "trophe" meaning "nourishment" and comes from the Greek verb "trephein." Because the concept of nourishment or nutrition is so connected with the sciences, words formed form "trophos" are almost all technical scientific terms, a consideration of which would take us far afield today. Suffice it to say, for those who just have to have a word for nourishment, that trophology is the department of physiology dealing with nutrition. Eat that for lunch.
Back to Trophy
Looking at the roots thus given, it would be more logical to connect trophy with tropho, since the Greek word for nourishment can be transliterated either as "trophe" or "trophy." Thus, if we wanted to do creative, but uninformed, word study, we might imagine that somehow a trophy is "food" for the one who has conquered. Of course, we would be wrong. The word trophy actually is derived from "tropos," with the specific Greek word being "tropaion." We add the "h" sound after a "p" in order to aid the flow of the word as it rushes on to its final syllable.
Turning back to the definition of trophy, then, I noted that it meant not just "turning" in the abstract but a "turning" of the enemy to defeat, a putting to flight of one's opponents. Originally, then, the picture created by the word was of enemies who were turned back at a particular point. At that point a trophy or memorial could then be erected, as a monument not just to the prowess of the victorious troops but to the very spot where the tide was turned. Then trophy could further be extended in meaning to be anything that served as a token or evidence of victory or valor. So, my trophy (I prefer to call it that, rather than my plaque, which reminds me too much of dental issues), represents where I turned back my spelling foes, though I was myself defeated by Professor Jeff Hirsch of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Jeff had done well in the "junior" spelling bee 39 years ago; now he returned to win the "senior" bee in 2004.
This is enough for one day, but lingering thoughts on both roots remain....
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long