or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Few and Far Between

Today on Towleroad there's an article about an Oklahoma politician named Brent Rinehart who's going to mail to voters a "comic book...about how gays and Satan are out to get him"(gay website, totally safe for work).

I thought, "Well, he won't be the first to use comic books as anti-gay propaganda, will he?"* But I overestimated him, because his publication is a comic book in the same way that a fart is a symphony. Boingboing published a couple of pages of the book, and they're unimaginably crude: they look and read as if they were created by a mildly mentally retarded person. (Two, as it turns out; the art is credited to a friend of Rinehart's named Shane Suiter.)

You don't believe me? Have a look:

I chose those two sections because they're pretty representative, and also because I'm wondering why I wasn't issued a toga, but mostly because of the pitiable attempts at the word "pedophile". I wonder whose fault those are, the writer's or the artist's, and I also wonder why it's spelled two different ways.

But no matter. If Mr. Rinehart thinks his electorate is stupid enough to be impressed by such sad trash (and maybe they are), then let him spell things as he likes. I'd rather spell it correctly, and then dissect it.

The second half of the word is reasonably common in English, as in "Anglophile", someone who likes all things English, or "audiophile", someone who spends way too much money on stereo equipment. It's from Greek "philos", "beloved", which in turn is from the verb "philein", "to love".

The first half is also Greek, from "pais", "child"; its combining form is "paido-" or "paedo", and it shows up in other words such as "pediatrician", a doctor specializing in children.

"Pais" is the offspring of Indo-European "pau-", which has a whole whack of descendants, some of which have undergone such changes that you wouldn't even recognize them. "Pau-" doesn't mean "child"; it means "few" or "little", and all the descendants have that sense in some way, however distantly removed.

Let's start with the least predictable offshoot: "paraffin". Seriously! The Latin form of "pau-" was "parus", and "paraffin" is a concoction of three parts: "parus", "barely"; "affinis", "connected"; and the suffix "-in", much used in naming chemical substances ("insulin" and "albumin", for starters). And what is paraffin barely connected to? Liquids, which simply roll off it, making it a great waterproofing agent.

"Paucity" is a fairly obvious Latinate descendant of "pau-", and so is "pauper", one who has or produces little; "poor", "poverty", and "impoverish" also come from "pau-" through Latin.

Word for little, not-adult humans stem from the root in the forms of "pediatric" and "puerile" ("childish"). Other animals also get their due: "foal" and "filly" come from Germanic languages, and "pony" from Latin. A clutch of chickeny words also derive from Latin: "poltroon" (a coward), "poult" and "poultry" as well as "pullet".

Finally, the fourth syllable of "encyclopedia" refers to children; Greek "paedeia" meant "education", and "encyclo-" means "circular", therefore "well-rounded", therefore "general", so an encyclopedia is literally a general education.

*The Jack Chick tract, naturally, trots out the story of Lot; two angels visited him at his little bungalow in Sodom, and a bunch of other townsmen, evidently bored on a Saturday night, demanded that he hand the angels over so that they could check them out. Lot said--and I'm paraphrasing a little--"No, you can't fuck my guests, but how about if I give my two virgin daughters, and you can do anything you like to them?" Modern scholars argue reasonably enough that the story isn't about homosexuality but about the sacred obligations of hospitality; it still astonishes me, though, that anybody would use this story as a proof of anything except how abominably women were treated in the Bronze Age.

Oh, and then later on, when Lot and his daughters had escaped the fire and brimstone and were living in a mountain, the daughters said, "Well, no men around--God killed them all--so we might as well fuck our father." So they got him drunk on two consecutive nights and did the deed and bore his children. Funny how Jack Chick leaves that bit out: homosexuality is bad, but incest is right in God's eyes, as long as it's father-daughter.


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