Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I've been searching for this word for a long time, and I finally found it. It's the opposite of onomotopoeia—it's a word that sounds nothing at all like what it means. My textbook example is "pulchritude." I think "gibbous" might also go on the list, as tonight's moon is what got me thinking about it again.

Unlike many fancy Latin-bred words that I learned from the writing of the late Gary Gygax, I know pulchritude because of the unusual choice of Gian Carlo Menotti to replace the credo in his mass with a verse from Augustine's Confessions, making it the Missa "O Pulchritudo". It's a lovely piece, performed with pulchritude by the William Ferris Chorale in the only digital recording I'm aware of. William Ferris Chorale - Menotti & Vierne


Anonymous said...

Yay, I learned 2 new words today!

Also, congratulations on finding the definition. :D

Parvati V said...

Well, pulchritude is a case of word loan. ;)
In Latin, it probably sounded close to the word puella (girl). There are also a few pul- starting words related to the "small" area of meaning (pulex, flea, pulvis, dust). And girl and small project an image of cuteness. (It still sort of clicks to the Italian ear, we still use some of those words unchanged - not puella, but pulce for flea and polvere for dust have lived on).
Not to mention that it didn't sound so... mouth filling, if you will, as pulchritude does in a modern English language context ^^

Yes, it's been way too much since I've done any translation work :/