Sunday 17 April 2011


There's often a slight problem when I do one of these posts on obscure yet delightful words: Is it a real word? And what can you possibly mean by the word real?

If lots of people use a word, then it's real. But what about words there were used only once or twice? Any fool can invent a word - let's say flobdollody - and claim that it means a desire to eat unicorns, and use it once. Nobody will take any notice of it, of course, and it will never make the dictionary.

If Shakespeare thinks up a word it automatically qualifies for the OED, because Shakespeare was the greatest writer who ever breathed. But there are other scribblers who seem to get all their coinages into the hallowed Oxonian pages of the Richard Snary. Sir Thomas Urquhart, for example, has 372 of his own inventions tucked away in the dictionary, one of which is logopandocie.

Logos was Greek for word, and also for meaning and truth and all sorts of other things. When John's Gospel opens with "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God", it's logos in the original* Greek.

Meanwhile, pandokeia was inn-keeping, it was the practice of running a tavern. Now the thing about a tavern is that anyone who feels like it can wander in, and they often do. So logopandocie is running a word tavern, or, as the OED puts it, a readiness to admit all kinds of words. It's applicable to a dictionary, to a language, and this blog.

An editorial meeting at Inky Fool Mansions
*Well, it was probably originally in Aramaic, but that's another story.


  1. I know no scholars who think John was originally written in Aramaic. As a matter of fact, being probably the last of the four gospels to be written, it's more likely to be originally Greek than the others. Are you perhaps confusing it with Matthew, which MAY have had a Hebrew or Aramaic original, though there's no MS evidence?

  2. Not John's Gospel as a whole, but the Prologue: verses 1-18. Burney and Weiss, among others, think that the Prologue obeys the rules of Aramaic/Hebrew poetry and is a translation of an Aramaic original. There's also a theory that, like chap 21, the Prologue isn't Johanine.

    Mind you, I just whipped out my copy of Barrett (which I carry with me at All Times) and he says "The case for a Semitic original will not stand: see the detailed discussion in the notes." But as I'm terribly busy today I shan't.

    Will get back if I have spare time.