Why do etymology at all?

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Jul 27 20:37:13 EDT 1999

At 7:16 PM -0400 7/27/99, Mike Sangrey wrote:
>Whenever I think of etymology, I think of a particular word that had one
>meaning on April 14, 1912 and a very different meaning on April 15, the very
>next day--"titanic".
>I think just recently it is becoming somewhat OK to use the word again.  Here
>is a case, albeit not greek, where a word had a meaning, lost its meaning, and
>after 80 years is starting to get it back.  I guess etymology is more a study
>of history than of a word.

I imagine you are well aware of the origin of the adjective "titanic"? from
the Titans, the overbearing, overly aggressive second generation of the
gods in Hesiod's Theogony, or in the later Orphic theologies the devourers
of the infant Dionysus, from the ashes of whom, when Zeus struck them with
lightning, humanity was created with a dual nature: evil from the Titans,
good from Dionysus.

As for Jeffrey Gibson's suggestion, a couple verbs come readily to mind
that change their meaning considerably from classical Attic to NT Koine:

	BLEPW in Attic means "look at"; in Koine it usually means "see"
	LALEW in Attic means "prattle, chatter"; in Koine it has come to be
		synonymous with LEGW.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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