Jon de Vos – Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
Winter Park, CO Colorado
The other day I was glancing at a column in the Sunday Denver paper on the subject of what people call themselves based upon where they live. Please note that I only glanced at this article, I do not read other columnists. What I do is sort of squint out of the corner of my eye at other columnists, to see if there some idea I can rip off.
Anyway this writer had coined the term, “demonym” as a word that describes the word that people use in describing themselves, like ‘Tabernashers’ or ‘Parshallistas’ for instance. Demonym doesn’t seem to be found in any dictionary but if it ever catches on, you should remember that you heard it here second.
Onym is a Greek word that simply means the name of something. Some of them we’re familiar with like synonyms, words that mean the same thing like “near” and “close” and antonyms, words that mean the opposite like “cold” and “hot.”
You’re probably familiar with a few others like pseudonym, the term for a fake name often taken up by authors for works that will probably sell, but they don’t want to be associated with them. Anne Rice, for instance, has a whole series of sadomasochistic pornography she writes under the pseudonym, A. N. Roquelare. Or wrote, I should say, because in 2005, Anne Rice renounced her life of atheism and returned to the Catholic faith. No more vamps or vampires for her, she announced in a Newsweek article that year that she would evermore, “write only for the Lord.”
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Anymonym is a word used to describe a word that describes a word. A retronym is a new word for an old object, usually coined due to advances in technology. “Cell phone” is an example, not too long ago, we only had phones. We used to have milk. Now we have to specify “whole milk” because today we have the option of nonfat, skim milk, 2 percent fat and so on. You can even opt for skim milk with slimy stuff in it to resemble whole milk. Yummy.
An ananym is a name written backwards, while a capitonym is a word that changes in pronunciation and meaning when it is capitalized. Consider the month of August, then consider how august the emperor looks in his new clothes. Would you care for a Polish sausage while I polish the silverware?
A contronym is the same as an antagonym and both describe words that can have opposite meanings in different circumstances. The word, “cleave,” for instance, can mean split apart in one sentence and cling together in the next. A contronym also means a word that contains its own opposite, like “overlook” as in, “Good Heavens, we must go back! We have overlooked the overlook.”
A hiernym is a surname that is based upon a sacred name like Jill St. John. An exonym is a foreigner’s version of a place name. “England” in French, becomes Angleterre.
A tautonym is the term that describes the same term twice, like tom-tom and tutu. Remember go-go boots? Among the least things they were, was a tautonym.
Oh, yes. The onym at the top of this column is the longest word not in common use in the English language. The word contains 45 letters and for a long time it was considered made up, a hoax, but then medical science discovered something and named it after the hoax. One thing sure: If you catch it, you’ll probably die before you pronounce it.
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