or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


As I noted a few years ago, the circumflex in French generally denotes a place where the used to be an "-s-", as in "arrêt", which means "stop" and is the source of English "arrest".

Now, look at this charming website which is narrated by two of the most enchanting cats on the planet, Zig and Zag. No, really: stunningly beautiful.

This recent posting, on Hallowe'en, is entitled "Fantôme", which is the French word for "ghost". Just after reading the post it occurred to me that if you tuck the "-s-" back into it after the circumflex, you get "fantosme", which is self-evidently the same as the English word "phantasm", and I cannot imagine how it took me this long to notice.

It's no great stretch from "fantosme" to "phantasm" (or vice versa); "-a-" and "-o-" can sound very alike, even identical, in the right company. In my fairly standard and relatively unaccented version of English, "Wally" and "Molly" are precise rhymes, as are "war" and "for"; "wan" and "don" don't have exactly the same vowel sound, but they're very close.

"Phantasm" is from Latin "phantasma", which they stole entire from Greek; in that language, it originated from "phantazein", "to bring before the mind", "to make visible". ("Phantazein" in turn is related to "phainein", "to appear", "to show", and this can be seen in such English words as "cellophane".) "Phantazein" sounds (does it not?) very much like "fantasy", which of course is related, as is "fantastic".


Post a Comment

<< Home