Sunday, May 20, 2007


From the Mailbag

Eric Thomson sent me a witty and erudite email, in which he commented on a couple of my blog posts.

Anent my paunch, he wrote:
A motto for your escutcheon: 'Omo de panza omo de sostanza'.
In English this means, "A man with a paunch is a man of substance." The rhyming motto is some dialect of Italian. Panza also occurs in Spanish. Hence the apt name of Don Quixote's pot-bellied squire Sancho Panza. The ultimate source of both paunch and panza is the rare Latin word pantex. Here is the entry in Lewis & Short's Latin Dictionary:
pantex, ĭcis, and usu. plur., pantĭces, um, m.,

I. the paunch, the bowels (syn.: venter, ilia): eo vos vostrosque pantices madefacitis, quom ego sim hic siccus, Plaut. Ps. 1, 2, 50: et aestuantes docte solvis pantices, i.e. sausages, Verg. Cat. 5, 31; Mart. 6, 64, 28.--In sing., Auct. Priap. 83, 19 dub.
I've taken Eric's advice and designed the following escutcheon:
Epicuri de grege porcum, in the words of Horace (Epist. 1.4.16) -- a pig from Epicurus' herd.

[Update: E.J. Moncada suggests laudator temporis acti me porculo = praiser of time past when I was a piglet, recalling Horace, Ars Poetica 173-4 laudator temporis acti se puero = praiser of time past when he was a boy.]

Eric also humorously suggested an alternative origin for the word sciolist:
We can derive sciolist by aptonymic syncope from the species of charlatan known as the sociologist.
Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, 2nd edition (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004), p. 33 (, explains syncope as follows:
The loss (deletion) of a vowel from the interior of a word (not initially or finally) is called syncope (from Greek sunkopé 'a cutting away', sun- 'with' + kopé 'cut, beat'); such deleted vowels are said to be 'syncopated'. Syncope is a frequently used term.

  (1) The change in many varieties of English which omits the medial vowel of words such as fam(i)ly and mem(o)ry illustrates syncope.

  (2) Starting in Vulgar Latin and continuing in the Western Romance languages, the unstressed vowels other than a were lost in the interior of words three syllables long or longer, as in pópulu- 'people' (pópulu- > poplV-), reflected by French peuple 'people' and Spanish pueblo 'people, town' (English people is borrowed from French); fābulare 'to talk' became hablar 'to speak' in Spanish (fābulare > fablar(e) > hablar /ablar/).

While syncope is normally reserved for loss of vowels, some people sometimes speak of 'syncopated' consonants. It is more common in the case of consonants just to speak of loss or deletion.
If some of the medial letters of sociologist drop out by syncope, we're left with sciolist, which some would say is an fitting description (aptonym or aptronym) of a sociologist.

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