or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A La Mode

Here's the perfect example of why grammar and etymology are not for the amateur.

From the not-safe-for-work Gay Porn Blog:

In his latest film Arabesque (ahh, the joys of living language: the title refers not to the classic ballet position but a neologic attempt at "Arab-ish"), Ward revisits the 1920s Hollywood of Rudy Valentino.

The problem isn't "neologic": it's a word with the same meaning as "neological", which is to say "having the qualities of a neologism". (A neologism is a newly coined word, or a new use for an existing word.) "Neological" would have been the better choice between those two, and I would have preferred "neologistic", though they didn't ask my opinion: but "neologic" is fine.

What isn't fine is that this use of "Arabesque" is far from a neologism: it is, in fact, the literal and original meaning of the word. "-Esque" is a suffix meaning "in the manner of" or "resembling", so "Arabesque" in fact means "Arab-like", or, as the writer would have it, "Arab-ish", which thirty seconds' research would have shown him. (The arabesque of ballet is therefore a move in the Arab manner, or some European interpretation of a move in Arabian dance.)

Just because one meaning of a word has come to dominate the language doesn't mean that any other meanings are automatically nullified.


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