Thursday 3 December 2009


According to Chambers an antiscian is "a dweller on the same meridian on the other side of the equator, whose shadow at noon falls in the opposite direction."

I can't for the life of me think why somebody should need a word for that. How often would one even write to one's anitiscian, let alone talk about him behind his back?

My OED has the word as well (with a plural of antiscii) but lists no uses, only an enigmatic date: 1706. Webster has antiscians, but the only usage he cites is Brande & Cox, which is another dictionary. It is also, I discover, an approved word in the Telegraphic Mining Dictionary, which is strange as miners are underground and don't cast shadows at noon, so they're the one lot of people who really couldn't have antiscii.

I fear my antiscian may have drowned. His nearest land is Bouvet Island and that's 238 miles away and Norwegian. I feel sure that my antiscian instinctively distrusts Norwegians.

A penguin hurries back to Bouvet Island with a message from my antiscian

P.S. It's pronounced antishian


  1. Mr. Dogberry,

    Admitting that I am someone who values the surroundings most immediate to everyday life, may I kindly request an explanation as to where I might find my scian. That would be the scian to which there is an anti-scian.

    According to the logic of your word of the day, the person in question should be right here, in fact under my feet. Or am I mistaken? Are we all scians in our own lives? Why then bother to create a separate word for it?

    As you know, I have traveled the world several times over, but my linguistic journeys have never taken me to Antiquity and Latin. My focus has always been on the living, hence my shortcomings in dead languages.


  2. So far as I can tell, Mr Grady, an antiscian is anybody due South or North of you and on the other side of the equator. So a scian would be on the same side of the equator but neither to the East nor the West. You ought therefore to be able to be your own scian.

  3. It's pretty neat I stumbled upon this word. Yes, there may not be many practical uses for it, but I have one. When I was much younger I used to get this recurring nightmare where the fate of the world (which in the dream was just a small spherical green chicken-fenced grid - think old-school computers) rested on my shoulders. All I had to do was chase down and catch before time ran out the only other person who on this orb, but you see - no matter how hard I ran or which direction I took, that guy would always be on the exact opposite end of the sphere. He would always be my antiscian. Needless to say I always woke up from this dream in a terrible panic.